The fact that digital cameras have a unique serial number is no secret. Did you know, however, that the number is embedded in the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data in each digital picture taken with the camera? The data also includes additional information, such as geographic location, camera model, data and time, photographer, etc.
Some digital cameras, generally high-end models, include an Eye-Fi card, which automatically uploads any new photos to your online photo sites once it identifies an open Wi-Fi access point. In addition, the Eye-Fi technology tags photos and video with accurate geographic information of the shooting locations.
High-end DSLRs often include built-in 3G capabilities. For the Eye-Fi card to connect with the Web via a Wi-Fi access point, a password is needed. The camera’s 3G allows it to make the connection without the password, however, so photos from your camera will still be uploaded automatically. Thus, revealing the whereabouts of the burglar or, at the very least, recent locations where your expensive DSLR was used.
Whether photos from your camera were uploaded automatically or consciously by the burglar or a purchaser of the stolen property, you can do some of your own detective work by checking any sites where you have galleries, PhotographyTalk.com, Flickr, etc. Look to see if there are any photos that have been uploaded since the date of the burglary. If you find any such photos, then retrieve the EXIF metadata that should contain information helpful to the police.
Stolen Camera Finder will make the process of tracking EXIF metadata much easier. The company operates a Web site with the technology to search the Web for any photos from your camera since the burglary.
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A burglary of your home or photography studio is a very unpleasant experience. Not least of all is that most electronics, including digital cameras and other photography equipment, are never recovered. Today’s digital camera technology, however, can make it easier to track your camera and to identify when it has been used. This provides law enforcement with another opportunity to catch burglars. Similar technology isn’t available to the police or insurance companies to trace jewelry, cash and other high-risk targets for burglars.
Keep in mind that some digital cameras do not have this capability. In addition, a thief with plenty of time on his hands could delete or falsify the EXIF metadata. Facebook does it automatically. The upside is manipulating the EXIF data requires some very specific computer knowledge and a significant amount of time. Successful burglars quickly pass your camera onto a fence or it as been purchased as used equipment by an unsuspecting and innocent third party (unless, of course, he or she knew they were accepting stolen property).
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