This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2011-12-27 at 2:22 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/12693
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CameraTrace Tracks by Serial Number in Photos

by Glenn Fleishman

Over 300 models of higher-end digital cameras embed the camera’s unique serial number into the metadata of every photo taken. If those photos are uploaded without that embedded tidbit being scrubbed, the data ends up being available for publicly posted photos at sites like Flickr and 500px. GadgetTrak has leveraged this fact with its just-out-of-testing service CameraTrace [1].

The service has been in testing for several months, and GadgetTrak has scoured photo-sharing services to collect data from billions of pictures (including all public Flickr photos since 2006) that represent 11 million unique camera serial numbers. The beta service allowed searching by serial number, and that remains as a free option [2] in CameraTrace.

The full service, which requires a one-time $10 fee per camera registered, monitors photo-sharing sites and notifies you of newly posted pictures taken with your camera after you report it as being stolen. It can also be used to see whether your photos with embedded serial numbers have been used without your permission, assuming the unauthorized posters didn’t remove the metadata before posting.

GadgetTrak includes a metallic lost-and-found sticker to attach to your camera, to help those with good intentions to return your camera via a Web form that uses anonymous two-way communication to protect the privacy of both parties. As with laptops and phones, GadgetTrak also gets involved in helping to make a recovery by facilitating contacts with local police.

CameraTrace competes with a longer-running service offered in the UK called stolencamerafinder [3]. That service provides free checking against its database by uploading a photo from which the metadata is extracted. A free account allows basic searching, while either a Pro (£4.99 per month, or about $7.80) or Business (£99.99 per month, or roughly $157) account allows more-extensive searches and provides more-advanced features.

[1]: http://www.cameratrace.com/
[2]: http://www.cameratrace.com/trace
[3]: http://www.stolencamerafinder.com/