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Publicly Shaming Laptop Thieves Catches Bystanders in the Crossfire 372

nonprofiteer writes "Embarrassing thieves by exposing them using laptop recovery software makes for fun tech stories, but what about a case of a person being literally exposed after cops and a software company got their hands on naked photos she exchanged with her long-distance boyfriend, not realizing the machine was stolen? (She bought it for $60 so she should have known, but still). The case is going to trial in Ohio in September. The plaintiffs argue that the software company had the right to get the computer's location in order to recover it, but that it should not have intercepted the nude photos and shared those with the cops. Seems like a legitimate complaint and the plaintiffs are especially sympathetic in not realizing the device was stolen."
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Publicly Shaming Laptop Thieves Catches Bystanders in the Crossfire

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  • Pics (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @04:40PM (#37257814)

    Pics or it didn't happen.

  • Actually maybe the boyfriend is long distance for a reason and we shouldn't be looking for the pics!

  • This was stolen equipment. Everything and anything on it is evidence. Sorry, tough luck, cookie.

    Can I get a copies of the pics?

    • from the article, the laptop was in need of repair before being usable.

      many of us troll ebay for "junk" computers in need of some parts to magically become worth ten times more.
    • You know there are plenty of laptops around these days that aren't worth even $60. Technology marches on and all that.
  • Karma's a bitch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @04:43PM (#37257836)

    You buy electronics at crackhead prices, don't be surprised if you get burned. About as dumb as people who download hacking binaries.

    • Re:Karma's a bitch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @04:46PM (#37257870) Homepage Journal

      Yes, you should always buy from theives at retail prices. That will drive down demand for theft.

      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        Why would someone buy a laptop from a crackhead on the street corner when you could buy one for the same price legit that comes with stuff like tech support and a lack of cops busting down your door a week later? You're basically trading money for risk when buying from a fence.
    • by randomaxe ( 673239 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @05:01PM (#37258066)

      You buy electronics at crackhead prices, don't be surprised if you get burned.

      I guess I should cancel my order for that $99 TouchPad, then?

    • Re:Karma's a bitch (Score:5, Informative)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @05:02PM (#37258080)

      You buy electronics at crackhead prices, don't be surprised if you get burned. About as dumb as people who download hacking binaries.

      She bought a non-functional laptop from one of her students for $60, then spent money to have it repaired. You can only call that "dumb" if you know what was wrong with the laptop.

      I find it amusing that so many people on Slashdot refer to others as "dumb" or "idiots" without bothering to get even a modicum of information regarding the specific story being discussed.

      • I agree, $60 for a broken laptop is most likely too little, but by the same token, it's not something I would personally know had I not sold a previous laptop off piece by piece.

      • Probably was stolen without the charger. It became non functional due to a low battery. Fixed may be AC adapter purchased.

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        Spending money on computer repair is always dumb.

  • I thought everyone knew by now that if you send a nude photo of yourself to someone else in electronic form, it will inevitably end up on the internet.
  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @04:49PM (#37257914)

    According to the Forbes article, one of the arresting police officers was "prudish" and found her naked pics "disgusting". The proper retort to this: keep your thoughts to yourself, dude. It's none of your business whether her photos are disgusting to you or not. She did nothing illegal by taking naked pics of herself. End of story. Sigh.

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      Probably just immature. The pics were of a 52 year old woman, not a very sexually appealing one apparently.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      He sounds to me like one of those people who delights in finding things offensive. The sort who will look over and over so he can be offended again.

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @04:52PM (#37257940) Homepage Journal

    According to a judicial opinion in the case (via Internet Cases), the officers “told her that she was stupid and that she was under arrest”

    Apparently the cops on the scene didn't buy her "I didn't realize it was stolen" line for a second.

    • Yes, we know cops are the fonts of wisdom in our society.

    • > Apparently the cops on the scene didn't buy her "I didn't realize it was stolen" line for a second.

      And that's why the burden of proof is on the state.

  • by wall0645 ( 1665631 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @04:53PM (#37257954)
    I am surprised that so many people are saying the low price of the laptop matters. I have bought both laptop and desktop computers legitimately for that price. I've sold people old computers of mine for less. Hell, I've *given* people computers I don't use. I of course did not RTFA and maybe this is a top of the line laptop bought in a dark alley, but $60 does not cry "obviously stolen" to me.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      It was used and "messed up", so I agree completely, $60 was not so cheap that it should raise the alarm.

  • Any links? I need to get a good overview of this case in order to be able to judge it impartially and in a professional manner.

  • I can see it now in the police interview room..... I swear officer, how was I to know that a next to new $800 laptop with no manuals or documentation purchased of some crack user on the street for $60 was stolen.

    Trust me she knew it was stolen and she is blowing smoke up everyones proverbial.
  • and abet thieves by being their knowing customers. And at $60, you know that as a recent laptop it's stolen.

    So cry me a river.

    But still, I don't think it should compromise your right to privacy. Those pics were presumably taken in her home without her permission and should have been destroyed if it didn't add to the case.

    • did you read article, said laptop had to be repaired first. care to change your point of view, or if not I have $60 thinkpad T23 laptop for you to buy that needs screen, hardrive, memory, networking module and battery pack.

  • In the old shell style [] (look for warning banner)


    Also, curse you lameness filter.

  • Via copyright. It has been established that the person taking the photos holds the copyright on those photos. Not the person who owns the camera, or the bought the resources (film, storage, etc), but the person who took the pictures. So if she took the pictures... she could fight to get the images taken down the site, but copyright isn't well respected among many online users (or so I'm told *looks around*). If somebody got the images and redistributed them, it would be very hard to shut them all down.
  • >(She bought it for $60 so she should have known, but still).

    No "but still" allowed here. The word for this chick is not "victim," it is "fence." She knew or should have known that she was accepting stolen property.

  • Being as a pawn shop or other used hardware store would likely pay the owner of a laptop about that much for a used machine, it isn't necessarily odd that a private seller would ask that of a possible private buyer.
  • The ethics of paying for a device suspected to be stolen aside, buying a system and not wiping it is practically criminal negligence. Even if everything about the purchase is completely legitimate, it may have been equipped with all sorts of surveillance software by its previous owners, whether deliberately or through malware infections.

  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2011 @06:30PM (#37259036)

    Most comments have focused on the question of whether or not a reasonable person could consider $60 an appropriate price to pay for a used laptop, and whether the device was functional at the time of sale. Indeed, even the defendants raised this point. However, I think this is not really getting at the heart of the matter.

    While I don't know how the legal system actually handles such cases, I think that the proper outcome is that the plaintiff (the woman) should win her case against law enforcement (but not the recovery company), and be entitled to damages. Then I think the recovery company and law enforcement should win the case against the thief who stole the laptop. But I also think they should win an additional claim against the thief for reselling a device with monitoring software on it, thereby exposing the woman to this situation. If there isn't a statute to cover this, there should be. It should go a bit like this:

    1. If you steal an electronic device and resell it, you are 100% liable for any invasion of privacy that results from that sale due to attempts to track and recover the device, regardless of whether or not you are aware of any recovery software on the device.
    2. If you own a device and resell it, you are 100% liable for any invasion of privacy that results from that sale if you installed tracking/monitoring/recovery software.
    3. If you own a device and resell it, you are NOT liable if someone else has installed monitoring software without your knowledge.

    The reasoning as to why we would want to (partly) indemnify parties using the remote tracking software in the course of recovering a device, is because they need to gather as much identifying information as possible, and that includes private, personal information. The tracking company in this case acted appropriately given the circumstances, because while the plaintiff didn't know the laptop was stolen, the company had every reasonable suspicion that she was the thief. Relaying whatever evidence they could find--including nude images--is the logical consequence of that investigation. What would be unreasonable is if the tracking company published the images on the internet as a way to shame the thief--to my understanding, this did not occur. The problem in this case is that law enforcement behaved inappropriately by commenting on those images.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser