Here’s how Stolen Camera Finder works. You upload an image file from your now-missing camera and Stolen Camera Finder scours the Internet to find other images that have been uploaded from that same camera. It works because the camera’s unique serial number is embedded into the EXIF metadata that’s baked in to each image file. The service is based on a database of images that have been uploaded to the Internet since the site’s inception more than seven years ago, so the more the service gets used, the more accurate it gets.
I tried a test of Stolen Camera Finder with a camera I’ve been using now for several years. It pulled up other photos I’ve posted online that must have been shot with that camera, as well as some images from a colleague who used to rent the camera on occasion. Had my camera been stolen, I might have seen some new, unidentifiable images that the thief—or the unfortunate soul who shelled out for my hot goods—uploaded to the Internet. Then it’s just a question of tracking down the user and letting them know that, unfortunately, they have my stolen camera. Hopefully, the step after that is to amenably agree to deliver your camera, although that might be an unfortunately hard sell for someone who recently shelled out cash to purchase what they thought was a legit camera.
Better still, if the application doesn’t find a match for your missing camera, you can fill out a form with the particulars of your camera and contact information in order to be notified if and when they come up with a match on an image.
In this age when it’s awfully easy to disappear online, it’s somewhat reassuring to know that even if your camera disappears in real life, it’s not likely to stay hidden once its images make their way online.