When developers created the convenience of syncing photos and videos in the cloud, their chief purpose was to allow a person to have access to photos across all devices owned by the user; there would be no need to do manual transfers, the cloud would do it all.
They probably didn’t think it would become a modern-day instrument to catch thieves in the act. “Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief,” wrote Jane Austen in “Emma.”
Weak heads, vanity and mischief, indeed. Last week, the Internet was once again abuzz when Facial Care Center and Marie France PR exec NJ Torres had her phone and wallet stolen while volunteering at the relief operations center at Villamor Air Base.
Imagine her surprise—and ire—when, after reinstalling Dropbox on her replacement phone, she saw several selfies of a man uploaded to her Dropbox account. The man, who obviously had her stolen phone, had no idea that NJ had set up her phone to automatically sync photos taken with her Samsung Galaxy S4 to Dropbox; while he was happily snapping away with his cool new “find,” he was unknowingly setting up the stage for his 15 minutes of fame on the Internet.
This was not the first time the cloud had caught vain thieves unwittingly uploading selfies to their patsies’ cloud accounts. A woman who had taken a Disney cruise had had her phone stolen and caught the employee, Nelson Cruz, taking photos with her phone. She created a Facebook account documenting the adventures of Nelson and his stolen phone; Nelson was subsequently fired from his job.
In another instance, a man aboard a train to Zurich had his phone stolen while he was sleeping. However, the man had no desire to press charges once he saw the thief’s selfies appear in his Dropbox account—the thief was hot enough that the guy was willing to let her keep the phone, in exchange for a date. “It would be great to meet her and of course she’s welcome to keep the phone,” he had said in an interview with Huffington Post UK.
Unfortunately, in NJ’s case, the man’s visage did not cause her heart to flutter, just her blood to boil. After having his face splashed all over the Internet and news, he came forward in an interview with ABS-CBN, his face obscured by a cloth (too late, buddy), to plead his innocence. “Arnel,” his screen name, insisted he had found the phone at a parking lot and was about to give it back (but not before taking copious selfies), except the phone was snatched from him last Sunday—-how convenient for “Arnel.”
The moral of the story? Set up your phone to sync photos and videos in the cloud, either via iCloud, Dropbox or Google+. It might not help you recover your phone, but you can enjoy your own brand of Internet justice.