Police In The U.K. Have Successfully Used Photos From WhatsApp To Arrest Several Drug Dealers

News & Culture Writer
04.16.18

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Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony concerning it, social media users have had plenty to think about when it comes to what apps they use these days. Now it seems those frequent the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp also have something to chew on, as police in the United Kingdom successfully arrested several drug dealers after identifying one of the suspects with the app. According to BBC News, however, the cops didn’t catch the culprit because of a random selfie. Instead, they identified his fingerprint in a photo.

In what is “believed to be the first convictions in Wales from fingerprints taken from a photograph,” police utilized a “groundbreaking” technique by which forensic scientists were able to scan the suspect’s fingerprint from a photo of his hand holding various tablets he was offering for sell. The photo in question was discovered on a phone seized in a raid:

“It had a number of texts such as ‘what do you want to buy?’ on it,” [said Dave Thomas].

“There was then the photograph of the hand holding pills that seemed like it was sent to potential customers saying ‘these are my wares, I’m selling these’.

“But he was not thinking it showed part of his hand and there was potentially a fingerprint.”

The scientific support unit – a joint venture between the Gwent and south Wales forces, based in Bridgend — was able to scan the image into its system.

Because U.K. police were able to acquire the WhatsApp message directly from the phone that sent it, the authorities were able to avoid the end-to-end encryption protection the social media platform (and others like it) promises to its users. As Business Insider points out, “While encrypted messages and photos are hard or impossible to collect remotely, they’re much easier to access directly from phones already used to send or receive them.”

(Via BBC News)

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