Heller, a Getty Images photographer, was on assignment at the Egyptian theatre in Hollywood when his Nikon D3 and bag of lenses was stolen. Like most victims of gadget theft, Heller reported the crime to the police but resigned himself to the loss. In a last ditch, he entered his camera’s serial number into GadgetTrak’s Serial Search Service and turned up an exact match to several photos that had recently been posted to Flickr. These photos eventually led Heller and the police to a professional photographer who’d unwittingly bought the stolen gear. The Flickr account even lead them to the photographer’s Facebook profile which had snapshots of the missing lenses.
So how does the GadgetTrak search work? Buried within each digital photo file are vast troves EXIF data which includes exposure settings, the type of camera that used to take the photo, and most importantly in this case, the camera’s serial number. When you upload your photo to Flickr, or any other photo-sharing site, all of this data goes with it. Searching photos by this data is easy enough unless they’re hidden behind a privacy setting. GadgetTrak claims that its search spiders have located and indexed more than 10 million camera serial numbers. It seems so simple that it’s hard to believe Heller’s the first person to recover their camera by searching for their serial number on Flickr.[GadgetTrak via BoingBoing]