June 1, 2011

Steal a laptop and have the worst pictures of your ugly mug up on the web for all to laugh at.

And then the police arrest you for theft... all because the laptop was spying on you the whole time.

71 comments:

Synova said...

Ouch.

Coketown said...

So, just to be sure, it is legal to spy on someone when they've stolen your stuff, yes? It's not a case of, "Well, yeah, he stole your computer and that was illegal, but that doesn't make it legal on your part to operate surveillance equipment in his home without him knowing"?

edutcher said...

All this proves is what we've suspected all along.

Big Brother is Bill Gates.

Lem said...

A happy ending ;)

I know there is a better Weiner in this story.. but that's all I got on short notice.

Quaestor said...

More sand scum infests our green and pleasant land. It's well past time to bolt the national doors and lower the portcullis.

Ann Althouse said...

"So, just to be sure, it is legal to spy on someone when they've stolen your stuff, yes?"

I don't know. What if the spied on person finds out and kills himself. Then it's like that college kid who is facing serious criminal charges.

But I think it's like any surveillance camera. If you can't activate a camera in your laptop, how can you point cameras everywhere in the street? Well, you activate it knowing you're going to use it when the person is in private.

Wouldn't it be easier to just have a GPS device? Isn't every computer a GPS device?

Shanna said...

Awesome that he was caught.

Of course, this is another example of the police not caring one whit about theft unless you go out and basically catch the guy yourself.

On a related note, I accidentally turned on the web cam on my laptop the other day and it started taking pictures. Kind of freaky if this can be used remotely without your knowledge.

Titus said...

More weiner weiner posts NOW!

Lem said...

Maybe its a case of retrieving stolen property overrides privacy concerns... where property overrides/outweigh privacy concerns.

Maybe I should phrase it in the form of a question.

Lem said...

More weiner weiner posts NOW!

I second Titus motion.. strike that.. let me rephrase.

WV humidig - Huma's humiliation

Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe its a case of retrieving stolen property overrides privacy concerns... where property overrides/outweigh privacy concerns.

Good question. Possible answer is that the thief here may not have a privacy interest in regards to a laptop he stole. Not sure where that could ultimately go though.

YoungHegelian said...

@Prof Althouse,

"Isn't every computer a GPS device?"

No, cell phones essentially are, because of the way they communicate with the cellular transmitters on towers and whatnot. Computers, unless they use a cellular data service card, have no need to provide their location coordinates to anyone.

The only thing that remains fixed and identifiable on a networked computer is what's called the MAC address (NOT MAC in the Apple sense!).

Also, be warned! ANYTHING that you can do on a computer can now be done remotely, including turning it on & off.

Lem said...

ANYTHING that you can do on a computer can now be done remotely, including turning it on & off.

That's how the Weiner gets turned..

(I'm on a Weiner vigil ;)

Lem said...

Not sure where that could ultimately go though.

Question of property seem to be more clear cut.. something either belongs to you (like the Weiner pic) or it dosent.. Where as "privacy" has evolved into abortion on demand.

Mary Beth said...

Wouldn't you reformat the computer before you did anything else with it?

Dustin said...

"The only thing that remains fixed and identifiable on a networked computer is what's called the MAC address "

Even those can be spoofed with a lot of routers, or a computer acting as router.

Freeman Hunt said...

This could be Weiner's new defense!

"I pranked my friend by stealing his Blackberry, but then he pranked me by remotely having it take a picture as I was changing clothes and then remotely posting it on Twitter."

Carol_Herman said...

I love a story with a happy ending.

While over in Oakland, California, the cops sure look stupid. So do the journalists. Because this story is here from the UK's MAIL.

Palladian said...

The police basically told the guy "sorry, tough luck, dude!" for 2 months, even though he had all the info on the thief. The only reason they actually went and arrested the perp is because the victim was getting a huge amount of attention and it made the Oakland PD look bad.

Remember, when seconds count, the police are two months away.

YoungHegelian said...

@MaryBeth

One wouldn't do a reformat because then one would have to do a complete OS and every application re-install. Also, every laptop has vendor specific hardware drivers that one has to go to the vendor's (e.g. HP) website and download one by one to get the laptop up and running.

I've had to do this repeatedly for client's whose hard drives have crashed on their (non)backed-up laptops.

It's easily 8 hours of work.

Carol_Herman said...

Oh, Anne, isn't the story NOT to steal property that isn't yours?

Maybe, "spy" is not the right word. So the probably illegal muslim can sue the Internet.

Because the "spy" program didn't exactly get the Oakland police to do their job.

Going on the Internet, though, proved to be what broke the log jam.

Oh, and the little Mac had GPS. Which is very legal. People use it all the time.

Besides, the thief is facing criminal charges. These are brought by the STATE (famous for disrespecting the 6th Amendment). All the guy is, in this case, is a witness, who recovered his own stolen merchandise.

Did you know when you shop, now, stores have added little electronic tags that have GPS in them? I'd bet the stores that sell expensive stuff have this as one way to thwart shoplifters.

Also, the original crime has a report on it.

Though I can remember a NYC story, from the late 1970's. (Before I moved away.) A woman's apartment had been burglarized. And, the thief stole a hand knit sweater she had made for her husband.

Then, walking down the street one day, she spotted her sweater on a guy. And, ran for a cop. "Boy," he told her, "don't even think of having him arrested. He's gonna obtain a receipt from some 2nd hand store. And, then he'll sue you for false arrest."

Now, if this thief is told by his court supplied lawyer, to shave. And, get a haircut. So he looks different in court. There ya go. He won't match his pictures.

But with muslims the hair thing could be a religious item, not to be fooled with?

Meanwhile, I hope they check to see that he's not illegal. If he's illegal, I hope they deport him. And, any other "family" of his that they can find ...

Now, the police are keeping the Mac as evidence. You think it's gonna show up in court?

Technicalities. Technicalities.

Carol_Herman said...

Palladian, I enjoyed your post at 9:53 very much.

Fen said...

At least he didn't blow anyone up.

Carol_Herman said...

Oh, the laptop had to be turned on for the remote to work. And, the OWNER had to know the password. He just can't "activate" every Mac in town.

That this is logistically possible, is a wonderful tool.

The day it becomes a crime to get back your own stolen merchandise ... is the day someone would just bypass the law.

If we're polluting out system by making it easier to go after citizens who use self-defensive methods ... instead of going after the bad guys ... we're in trouble.

Or we've let the left crap on our Constitution. And, for this? They will pay!

Pogo said...

Oakland's police force has "...about 2400 theft reports that come in per month, and 3 theft investigators."

Weird. Why is that?
Oh....

Last July, "...Oakland laid off 80 police officers, just over 10 percent of its total force, in order to balance the city's budget. As a result, the city's police chief says cops will no longer respond to 44 categories of crimes, including grand theft."

Why is that?
Total compensation for an OPD policeman averages $162,000 per year. The median family income in Oakland is $47,000 annually.

Today, Oakland is considered the 6th most violent city in the United States.

As W.R. Mead described, California is a failed state:

"The controversial US Supreme Court decision (pdf) that could ultimately force California to release tens of thousands of prison inmates is more than a shockingly broad exercise of judicial power. It is also an official declaration by the highest constitutional authority in the land that California meets the strict test of state failure: it can no longer enforce the law within its frontiers."

Eric Thorshammer said...

He blogged about it to force the police to take action. Good thing the thief didn't stumble on his blog. Happy ending but those bumbling cops should be reprimanded, at least.

Beep said...

Coketown said...
"So, just to be sure, it is legal to spy on someone when they've stolen your stuff, yes? It's not a case of, "Well, yeah, he stole your computer and that was illegal, but that doesn't make it legal on your part to operate surveillance equipment in his home without him knowing"?"

It's a case of 'just because someone steals your stuff doesn't make it theirs'.
It's so simple. This is what getting back at a thief looks like.

Coketown said...

It's a case of 'just because someone steals your stuff doesn't make it theirs'.
It's so simple. This is what getting back at a thief looks like.


That completely ignored the question. But thank you for your input.

Carol_Herman said...

Ah, if the thief didn't turn the Mac on, he wouldn't have been caught!

Do you know how many "tags" get placed on your computer, hm?

That's the Internet for ya.

As to operating the computer from a remote place, that's a FEATURE, not a BUG.

(Oh, and companies and schools, who give computers to students and employees, have been known to operate "some stuff" remotely.)

In that case, the school had to stop doing this to students.

But ya know what? As a precaution ... just tape over the camera lens. There ya go. The problem for the thief would have been solved.

You know, Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, just told California to release 46,000 prisoners.

I guess going to jail ain't what it used to be? Is this creep out on bail?

How long do you think the Mac will stay in the "evidence room?"

bagoh20 said...

So if someone stole your camera and took pictures of himself, would it be spying to look at said pictures. What's the dif? The computer belongs to you, the pictures it takes belong to you. You did not choose to place the camera so it could see him - he did - without your permission,, and he turned it on. You had a surveillance device which he stole. The same as if he stole your gun and accidentally shot himself with it.

Carol_Herman said...

Hey, in court the thief can make the argument that "he didn't steal it." "He bought it second hand." And, since the man could work his equipment remotely ... WHAT WAS STOLEN?

The thief could then claim "identity theft."

Reminds me of a story out of NYC. Where a guy delivering TV's came out from one delivery stop, to see a man inside his truck. He shut his truck up, and drove to a police station.

Where he was told he could be charged with kidnapping. And, the thief inside could claim he only went in to take a pee.

The driver was told to immediately open up the back of the truck to let the perp go.

So, the truck driver said "if there is ever a next time, he's not driving to a police station! He's gonna go to a local Irish bar."

They'd never have identified the body.

The Crack Emcee said...

I did a post on another computer thief a while back, where the owner filmed him practicing his dance moves and looking "hard". (Unfortunately, I can't find it right now.) The thief ended up turning the computer in himself, once he discovered himself online being made a fool of.

Some people seem determined to learn the hard way.

A. Shmendrik said...

The Bait Car

This fellow is clearly disppointed at the prospect of going (back) to the hoosegow. Less artful than Robert Loggia as Feech La Manna in The Sopranos. When he rode the bus on the way back to prison after Cristopher clued his Parole Officer...it was sad. This? This is laughable.

J said...

Would the police have cared if he went over to the guy's apartment himself and beheaded the guy?

Maybe if he left the head in a donut shop.

Chip Ahoy said...

Mac can do this on their own without an extra service but you must have opened a Mac account.

I installed Mackeeper and it has this same feature. It does track the location but only after the thief goes online. Mackeeper can also activate the built-in camera, just like the program 'Hidden' in the article does.

The distinguishing thing about the case in article is that the police could not help snag the thief even though his location was known, until the victim opened a blog and posted the pictures of the thief that he was receiving which generated pressure for the police to act.

Another cool thing that Mackeeper can do is encrypt files and make them invisible so a user can totally hide all their pervy porn. Say, a guy like a 9th District NY representative could turn his computer over to the FBI and they would never see his contortionist autofellatio and pixie-wiener photos.

The perp in the articlelooks like a real creep.

ic said...

edutcher, It's a Mac. Big Brother is Steve Jobs. His iPad tracks your location too.

Remember that Apple commercial of eons ago, a hammer thrower broke Big Brother's huge screen?

Fred4Pres said...

Proof that God exists, and he loves us very much, very much.

KitaIkki said...

The thief violated the victim's privacy by breaking and entering his home and stealing his computer (with all of victim's private data on it). So the victim is just getting even by activating the software.

Considering where this thief apparently came from, he is lucky not to have his hands chopped off.

Revenant said...

Why is that? Total compensation for an OPD policeman averages $162,000 per year. The median family income in Oakland is $47,000 annually.

That's certainly *part* of the problem. But if the effect of laying off 80 of your 800 officers is that you totally give up on "44 categories of crimes, including grand theft"... I have to wonder exactly what the fuck the other 720 cops DO all day.

Write speeding tickets?

Ralph L said...

Revenant, the idea is to generate public pressure to get their budget restored.

Wouldn't you reformat the computer before you did anything else with it?
I always check out the porn collection first.

Lem said...

Mark Simone standing in for Imus this morning points out, elucidates the latest Weiner defense.

Apparently in the mind of the Weiner there is a difference between sending something and tweeting something.

Clintonian.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Stealing is wrong. Getting caught is not.

But there's a lawyer somewhere formulating a defense for this turd.

Justice gets sullied daily by these types.

Relativism is a disease. Unfortunately, this country is ravaged by relativist bedsores.

tim maguire said...

If it turns out that the owner did violate some law by spying on the thief, he might be able to use an unclean hands defense--the "victim" can't complain of the violation because he played a key role in its execution through the commission of an illegal act.

Mary Beth said...

That's certainly *part* of the problem. But if the effect of laying off 80 of your 800 officers is that you totally give up on "44 categories of crimes, including grand theft"... I have to wonder exactly what the fuck the other 720 cops DO all day.

Write speeding tickets?


That's called generating income.

Skippy said...

Carol Herman: Massive losses of newspaper jobs in the country and particularly the Bay Area has left newspaper understaffed as well, so you can't fault traditional journalists for the lack of coverage. Recent report from the SF Public Press: "The combined newsroom staffs of the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News have shrunk to fewer than 300, after peaking in the year 2000 at more than 1,000 workers. Much of that was an inevitable result of advertisers and readers migrating online."

Lem said...

tim maguire said...

..he might be able to use an unclean hands defense..

So would the Weiner, by saying "everybody does it". But we are not there yet.

Lem said...

Eric Cantor does a dumb thing.


When a member of the other party is on a suicide mission you get out of their way.

deborah said...

Put a band-aid over your laptop lens.

wv: devent

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Lem

Perhaps Cantor was having a bit of fun with this; come clean?

Heh.

Roman said...

I've long thought that the most dangerous thing to be is stupid.

As far as a Weiner referance, I think it is no big thing.

Pogo said...

"... if the effect of laying off 80 of your 800 officers is that you totally give up on "44 categories of crimes, including grand theft"... I have to wonder exactly what the fuck the other 720 cops DO all day."

The tactic is a common one, called "The Washington Monument Strategy." If they can't get more tax dollars, they threaten to shut down popular or needed services. That is, if you don't give us the money we demand, we'll have to close the Washington Monument.

It's thuggery, part of why Oakland is so dangerous in the first place. Even the cops are thugs.

Shanna said...

If they can't get more tax dollars, they threaten to shut down popular or needed services.

Or they do like the folks in San Fransisco and refuse to save a guy from drowning as they watch him stand in the water for an hour because of "budget cuts".

Lem said...

Perhaps Cantor was having a bit of fun with this; come clean?

Cantor is giving the other side an opportunity take the heat of the Weiner..

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

george said...

Perhaps the easiest thing to have done would have been to take control of the computer remotely, find the perp's credit card info and order yourself a new computer. Perhaps you could add a big screen TV as recompense for your suffering in the interim.

It's funny how all of the best ways of handling this are illegal or would leave you open to extremely high civil damages. In this case though there are companies who provided this service explicitly so that it could be used in the manner it was used. I suspect any judgment would eventually end up on their doorstep, whether it was the perp claiming damages for violation of privacy or the victim trying to recoup money paid to the perp.

The cops here are just as bad as the thieve. They are withholding services which the victim has already paid for. At the very least the guy should be given the amount of money that would have been spent by the police to handle the crime and the police should be debited the same amount. When I screw up in my private business I always make the customer whole.

Pogo said...

@Shanna
I read about that. Disgusting.

How can those guys look at themselves in the mirror?
Apparently they sleep like babies, even after refusing to help someone.

There were personnel with the right training, but why they weren't contacted is unclear. I suspect to make a point about the budget cuts.

I get the sense in my own little town that we're increasingly on our own as to crime.

Lem said...

As far as a Weiner referance, I think it is no big thing.

Yea, I hear lying is ok.. all the time.

Shanna said...

I get the sense in my own little town that we're increasingly on our own as to crime.

I have always felt that way as far as theft goes. I had a guy in my backyard trying to break in (until he was scared off by my dog) and it didn't even occur to me to call the police until the next day when my coworkers said "did you call the police". I didn't think they would do jack about it and I was right.

Shanna said...

Yeah, but I have no idea WTF was going on in San Francisco. That is insane. They apparently just stood there and watched the guy die.

Pogo said...

Our police force has gone to an online reporting system, so no cops come at all.

They won't investigate the theft of course, but you can use the report for insurance, and they can use Special Cop Software to look for Patterns and arrest the bad guys.

It's like they're just weathermen on TV, watching the weather, but not telling you where the storms are.

I'd read years ago about the Thug-Police Industrial Complex. They feed off each other. The victims are just collateral damage to be ignored.

As for San Fran, they took their cue from cases in London that the same refusals occurred.

Increasingly, 'public servant' means the public is the servant.

Larvell said...

What if the thief gave it to an innocent third party, who had no reason to know it was stolen and thus had a reasonable expectation of privacy?

Our wiretap laws, which were basically intended to cover phone-tapping, seriously need to be overhauled to deal with the moden world.

E.M. Davis said...

Big Brother is Bill Gates.

It was a Mac.

Lem said...

Or they do like the folks in San Fransisco and refuse to save a guy from drowning..

Supreme blogger takes her time granting Weiner cert.

I might not be drowning.. but I.. I need help.. I need Weiner Rehab.. I have tried on my own to wean off of it but I cant.

wv redical

Freeman Hunt said...

Sounds like Mac needs to offer another bit of software, CopProdder.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm glad our police are better. A friend's house was looted during the bad ice storm we had a couple years ago, and his DVD collection was stolen along with all of his electronics. Our friend went around to look for his stuff at a local DVD resale shop and found it. (He figured that not many people in this town would have bought and immediately sold a BluRay of Old Boy.) The resale shop gave him all of his DVDs back along with a print out of the seller's name and address. He took this information to the police, and the thief was arrested immediately. He now receives regular payments from the perp in restitution for the other things he stole.

On a more humorous note, the thief also had to write him a letter. The letter contained an apology and a long story about how he was working to turn his life around. Meanwhile the thief's MySpace page is filled with pictures of the thief in various poses of thug posturing.

Every criminal's got a story for any fool who will listen.

ark said...

I don't think anyone has yet mentioned an important aspect of this story: The computer's camera was activated by a third party, an asset-retrieval company to which the owner had subscribed.

In other words: The owner reported to the company that the computer was stolen, and the company turned on the camera and recorded the images.

So what I want to know is this: Is that company subject to the business-records provisions of the Patriot Act? In other words, can Homeland Security demand for this company to activate the cameras on subscribers' computers without a court order?

My (not necessarily correct) understanding is that when you transact business with another party, that other parties records become available to law enforcement without a warrant because you have gave up the expectation of privacy when you conducted the transaction. So when you subscribe to this company's service, are you implicitly saying that it's OK for someone else to turn on your computer's camera without further permission from you?

Leland said...

Wouldn't it be easier to just have a GPS device? Isn't every computer a GPS device?

Maybe to the first question, and definitely no for the second.

First of all, GPS (if referring to satellite tracking) is very poor for urban environments. All you need to take the laptop out of survellience is move it indoors.

If the laptop has a 3G/4G system, that's another story. They don't use satellites, but rather use cell towers for triangulation. Most laptops don't have internal 3G/4G chips until this past year, and again, those systems fail the moment you are out of range of a capable cell tower (still most people live in 3G/4G cell coverage, just ask AT&T).

IP address is much easier to track. Not so much for the average user, but if you know your IT and a cooperating Internet Provider, you can match an IP address to a physical location fairly quickly. The easy way for a thief to avoid this is use public networks and stagger usage locations. Most thiefs aren't that smart.

Shanna said...

That's an awesome story, Freeman. Of course, it sounds like your friend had to do the detective work on his own.

Curious George said...

Shanna said...
Awesome that he was caught.

Of course, this is another example of the police not caring one whit about theft unless you go out and basically catch the guy yourself.
My son had his car stolen in Milwaukee and recovered it himself when he received notices of unpaid parking tickets...the thief left it in a "no overnight" area. He asked the police the obvious question, and they told them that they don't cross reference databases. He told them "You can stop looking for it now". He also had to bring the police report to the traffic division to get the tickets nulled.

Sigivald said...

Ann: No. Very few computers have GPS in them.

(Ones with 3G wireless are more common, and might be sufficient to get a general area fix.

Other problem is that GPS, especially GPS with a little computer antenna, doesn't work really well indoors...)

Shanna: Anything about your computer can be used remotely without your knowledge, if the remote party has control of the software (as the legitimate owner did in this case).

Everything on the screen. Every keystroke. Every movement of the cursor. Everything.

(And this is why computer security is important!)

Sigivald said...

ic: Nope, iOS devices don't "track your location".

The scaremongers who said that never did bother to blog the followup, which was that what was on the devices was a cache of part of the big location database Apple has of hotspots and cellular antennae... used to let the device itself find its location quickly.

Actual location data for users? Wasn't being stored.

Locations you were vaguely near (as far as 50-100 miles away in some cases)? Yep.

Waily, waily.

MadisonMan said...

It's like they're just weathermen on TV, watching the weather, but not telling you where the storms are.

Every time there's a whiff of severe weather in Madison, the local weather reporters are all over TV saying down to the street where the storms are.

You need to stop watching the Weather Channel and start watching Local news.