When Someone Steals Your Smartphone, Snap a Theftie

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 29 2014 3:25 PM

When Someone Steals Your Smartphone, Snap a Theftie

lookout
Lookout makes mobile security products for Android and iOS.

Photo from Lookout.

We all know selfies. And even dronies. But if you thought it could stop there, you are deeply naive. Bring on the “thefties.”

The name may come from a cheery social phenomenon, but thefties are a little more serious. They’re photos of electronics thieves taken with a tablet or smartphone’s front-facing camera. The goal is to give police something to go on if your device is stolen, or let you ID the culprit if it's someone you know.

Advertisement

The mobile security company Lookout is marketing thefties as part of its software suite for iOS and Android. The service currently sends you email alerts when it seems like someone is tampering with your device (by entering incorrect security codes, trying to uninstall software, etc.), and then GPS-tracks it so you can locate it from a browser. But now the thefties feature will also activate the device's front-facing camera and stealthily photography whoever is staring down at it. You get the photo in your inbox with a map pointing to the device's location. This is the theftie.

The FCC says that 1 in 3 U.S. robberies concerns a mobile device, and the problem has motivated legislators and the telecommunications industry to begin working on safeguards. But consumers are looking for immediate solutions. Though thefties aren't perfect, because they may not capture a clear image depending on how the thief is holding the phone, they're certainly a creative solution. But as David Richardson, Lookout's lead product manager for iOS, told CNET, "Not everyone here likes the name."

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 4:03 PM You’re Doing It Wrong: Puttanesca Sauce
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.