Monday, October 5, 2009

A Little Detective Work

While cleaning the grandstands at the Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, last Saturday morning, General Mayhem found a memory stick for a camera inside of a small case. There were no identifying marks of any kind on the case. I loaded that stick into our new computer Saturday night and viewed a slide show of family pictures that I was certain would be missed by the man or woman who lost it. In one of the photos I found two street signs in the background. Zooming in on those signs, I discovered the name of an intersection. Typing that intersection into Google maps, and taking an educated guess as to which city those streets were in based on their names, I was able to locate a Google street view of a house that matched a house in one of the pictures. That gave me an address. Garmin Nuvi told me how to get there.

The memory stick was safely returned to grateful owners who were a bit frightened over who may have found it. They have good reason for concern. It may not have been a Boy Scout who discovered their loss. It may not have been someone who enjoyed both the investigative work to locate the owners and the pleasure of returning their lost item to them. Those pictures could have ended up in unimaginable places on the web. What is more concerning to me is how a rather average American can use free web services to locate a perfect stranger. I knew where they lived. I knew what their children looked like. Had I bothered to check, I probably could have used the phone book to find their names and a phone number. And it was all done legally.

We have tremendous power with our technological advances. It’s a bit frightening. I still believe that the vast majority of people in this country are decent people who would rather use technology for good purposes than bad. I am grateful for that. But the power that bad people have is enormous.

7 comments:

CrossView said...

Interesting. Scary. I recently lost a memory card. Thankfully, there's no street names to put with us. But a good reminder....
Oh! And good (if not creepy) detective skills on your part.

Mocha Dad said...

I'm glad that you are an honest man who did your best to return the memory. There are many other people who would not have been as honest. I must admit, I would have been a little freaked out if you showed up at my house with the memory stick.

The_Kid said...

Yes, quite a big subject. So much evil, so little time.

But I have to say this concept provided plenty of laughs back when the libs were all geeked up about "Bush listening in on cell phone calls to/from Pakistan and parts nearby."
People don't have any privacy. Every cell phone call is on record.

Kathleen said...

Wow! Amazing detective work. And, yes, unsettling! I've always struggled with, for example, the blog. Pictures of the kids or no pictures? Well, my biggest purpose in blogging is so faraway family can keep up with our lives, so there has to be pictures. But is that the best idea for their safety?? What you were able to accomplish does make this whole technology thing a little scary. Very impressive, though! I know that family is grateful!

Mrs. A said...

Awesome! So glad you could track down the owners. As you said, it sure does make you think about the availability of information floating around out there. Good thoughts, Arby.

Linda said...

Kathleen, I have had the same concerns. Until recently, I rarely put photos of the children on the blog. (when I did, a made sure the mail box and the streets sign were blurred out.)
Lately, I think maybe I am tired of living paranoid. I had to lighten up a little.
I am not sure about all this. I actually considered this all last night when I heard some bumping outside... could someone have read something on the blog and come after my children? I don't want to live like that!
Arby, excellent work.

Khourt said...

Yay for you!!!! Im sure the family probably thought it was a little creepy though.