Mark Frauenfelder at 12:41 pm Fri, Apr 29, 2011
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Stolen Camera Finder
In a rare bow to privacy, Facebook strips the EXIF data from pictures you upload.
The cynic in me is inclined to wonder if Facebook simply wishes to keep anybody who isn’t them from mining that particular data set: I’ve played around with the language bindings for imagemagick a bit, and a common ‘baby’s first nontrivial test’ implementation is “take these N photos, strip the EXIF data from each one, and dump said data to a backend database such that it can be correlated with the image it came from.”
Very useful for photo gallery web applications(to allow human-friendly display of shutter speed, ISO, etc. without re-parsing the EXIF data on every pageload); but would also be applicable to situations where you wished to deny external access to EXIF data; but keep them yourself…
I was sort of under the impression that lots and lots of photos on the web had had their EXIF data at one point or another. Anyone want to do a quick survey? I’d do it, but I’m sooooo laaaaaaazy.
More likely they’re just resizing them or doing some other processing and neglecting to preserve the metadata.
I’ve always been a bit edgy about stuff like this. I never really thought about the camera itself tagging each and every photo with a serial number. Perhaps more disturbing is the implications of photos as “evidence”. Wouldn’t be too hard to procure a photo from someone’s iphone, then edit EXIF data to match on “bad” photos.
A sprinkling of said photos and an anonymous tip…. I’m stripping EXIF data from now on.
no i dont like this, it should be a tool for the police or maybe second hand camera stores to check if offered camera is stolen, it will be used for other no so great searchings i’m afraid.
Second hand camera stores have no need of this, since they presumably would have the actual camera to read the serial number off of.
And I don’t think restricting it to police would be of any use. Anyone can download a picture off the web and check the EXIF data for the serial number. This just makes the search easier. If you don’t want other people to know the serial number of your camera, either don’t upload pictures to the web or scrub the EXIF info before you do (an easy enough process).
Thank god none of my main cameras (iphone 4, Canon Powershot S5) support the serial number feature. This strikes me as a scandalous breach of privacy. This should definitely be an op-in feature in the firmware.
You sure about that?
Open the image in a text editor and see if there is an “Exif” at the beginning of the file. (Probably right after “Ã¿Ã˜Ã¿Ã¡”)
I tried one older image I have from a camera with 100’s of photos on flickr, but it didn’t match up. Shame, too, ‘cuz I was hoping to see images from it by the person I sold it too.
Also, it doesn’t support images that have been edited, and it doesn’t support raw. Good idea, but rather limited.
i found a flickr account associated with my camera that was stolen almost 3 years ago, but what do i do now?
Demand that Flickr pummel the stolen-camera-account-holder with DMCA takedowns. Flickr seems (with bot-like swiftness) to comply with any and all demands to delete an image or account, legit or not.
This points out an interesting possible use of the application: Finding stolen images. You presumably could find images others have downloaded from your Flickr/Picasa account and posted to theirs as theirs (thereby stealing your glory).
This would not apply to the same situation on Facebook, where the whole point of posting images there (for me) is to have others download them and make them their profile images (with my logo intact, thereby enhancing my glory).
There must be some utility to the DMCA for us peons. No, I take that back. I can cite no evidence that any IP law could possibly benefit me.
Good idea, but my RAW files aren’t supported and neither are the two .jpg cameras that I have.
The digital camera I bought a year ago is already obsolete- so if it gets stolen, I have an excuse to buy a better one.
Just don’t mess with my F.
A clever idea. I wish either of my cameras were supported :–/
One more reason to upgrade to that 5D Mark II I guess…
Interesting. The FAQ says that there are currently “over 1 million camera sightings” in their database. Does that mean there are over 1 million camera/photo re-unitings with owners? I see nothing in the FAQ about what happens after a camera or photos are sighted.
This seems promising. I just wonder who pays the postage or gas for returning the cameras?
Interesting insidious side to this as far as knowing every single picture you take and post online might be trackable like this. And people get upset because their iPhone tracks their location.
Any image manipulation program should be able to strip EXIF data from a photo, just open a file, resave it and you’re done. Personally all my photos are saved in lossless PNG format which dosn’t support EXIF anyway.
It *could* lead to some creepy and dangerous situations with unaware people uploading photos with GPS data on them though, I can certainly imagine that. From stalkers, to child predators, to burglars casing your home, they would have about all they need to find you.
Many people don’t bother; but stripping EXIF data is trivial. They are (reasonably) standardized fields(with occasional abuses of fields for other data in proprietary settings) and tools for inspecting and modifying the EXIF fields abound.
The more sophisticated(but substantially more difficult to pull off) threat involves the fact that every CCD or CMOS optical sensor has a slightly different set of manufacturing defects and nonlinearities(the most overt of which are known as “hot pixels”)…
This seems like a great idea. But when I try to find one of my pictures, it finds nothing. My camera is listed as being supported so… that makes me think the site does not work.
If some dude steals your camera and then sells it to me on craigslist, sorry but there’s no way you’re getting it back.
Christ, what an asshole.
Receiving stolen goods isn’t a crime where you live?
It is. But since I didn’t know it was stolen when I bought it, I’m not guilty of anything.
Actually, you may well get your camera back – if the cops somehow managed to track it down to me, they may confiscate it and it may get returned to you. But, they wouldn’t track it down to me using this tool, because I would have stripped the EXIF data from the photos. :)
You sound like you are proud of buying stolen stuff.
If I find a bargain on craigslist, I’m proud of having found it.
I’m just saying that this tool is not really useful.
Just because you would take steps to hide the evidence of your stolen goods, it doesn’t negate the usefulness of the tool for other people. After all, I doubt most criminals would take the time to erase EXIF data.
Dude, if you were half as clever as you seem to think you are, you wouldn’t be bragging about how you would *hypothetically* get away with being a part of theft.
Expanding a bit of devil’s advocacy here…
Isn’t there an interesting privacy issue here?
Couldn’t I basically drag someone else’s photo (from a supported camera) onto here, and then use that data to track down any other photos they’ve also taken? Sell my camera on ebay, then track the photos that the new owner is taking with it? Wouldn’t it be “interesting” to find out that guy who’s a kids portrat photographer also takes amateur porn shots with the same camera.
The power here is that it finds photos taken from the same camera irrespective of who’s currently got it or why, or where (given geotagging).
Basically, my iPhone is tracking every photo I take, and where I took it – and it’s sharing that data publicly with the world when I upload a photo. And now this website is making it really easy for people to find that information. Right?
Yap, that the same thing I though. It doesn’t works as yet, but if it ever will, it will be more of a spying kit than anything else. So you copy someone picture on the FB or Twitter and you can gain access to their data.
Your iPhone is tracking every photo because you allow it to. There’s an off switch in Location Services. I’d expect that cameras with geotagging have a similar option.
Aaaand my stolen camera is unsupported.
Does it work? I have tried 4 images from 4 cameras. There are images from each on the web but none were not found.
I shoot film. I scan a few of the best and post them various places. The only thing this site would help me with is if my scanner (or my lab’s scanner) gets nabbed.
I wondered if perhaps this was vaporware, thinking it was returning results far too fast to be searching for a serial number anywhere. I presumed it to be merely an EXIF viewer until I searched for my primary camera, where 11 results appeared via flickr almost instantly. Rather impressive, even though I have hundreds, if not thousands of images with that camera (results may be limited). I wonder if flickr is the only site used to search the serial numbers? I see it has been a topic of conversation there for a while now:
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