Many digital cameras store the camera's serial number in the photo's EXIF information, which can then be used to identify photos taken with that specific camera.
The new web service Stolen Camera Finder uses this concept to locate photos on the Internet. You can upload a photo taken with a particular camera to the service's website, or enter the camera's serial number directly to start a search for photos on the web. The drag and drop upload is currently only working under Firefox and Google Chrome, if you use another browser you need to enter the camera's serial number into the form.
This is quite problematic, considering that some camera models store an internal serial number in the EXIF tags that is different from the serial number shown on the camera itself. Tools to read EXIF information. Tools like Photo Me can be used to read the EXIF information from a photo taken with that camera.
The main idea behind the search is that the thief may have uploaded photos taken with the camera to the Internet, which would then open up possibilities to identify the person responsible for stealing the digital camera.
The service crawls the web for photos with serial numbers and adds all that are found to its database, which currently contains a list of well over one million serial numbers.
The serial number of the camera is then compared to the information stored in the database, with matches being reported to the user on site.
A match does not necessarily mean that the thief has uploaded photos to the web. It can very well be a photo that the original owner has uploaded to the Internet before the camera was stolen.
Users can fill out a missing camera report to receive email notifications whenever a new photo with the same serial number is added to the database.
The developers of Stolen Camera Finder have created a Google Chrome extension that anonymously submits information to the site if a JPG image is loaded that contains a serial number.
Another application, Flickr Scraper, is offered on site that scans the Flickr website for photos and submits the information to the project's database.
The Stolen Camera Finder service adds another option for users who have lost their digital camera, or had it stolen. The biggest drawbacks currently are the small database size and the fact that several camera models do not save serial number information.
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