My short bio: Hey Reddit! My name is Anthony van der Meer and I am the 23 years old director of Find my Phone. After the film went viral on Youtube, I saw a lot of questions. So now I am here to answer them. Feel free to ask about the legal, technical, ethical or cinematic aspects of the film.

Film Trailer Please excuse my English, I am not a native speaker/writer.

My Proof:

Comments: 77 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

KnBrot13 karma

Will you do a second movie if the phone goes back online again?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer5 karma

Yes, check the last 15 seconds of the film ;)

WeighWord6 karma

When? We need Find My Phone: Roamin' in Romania ASAP.

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer3 karma

Love the title. It's hard to tell. I will focus the sequel on the complete life cycle of the phone.

A prequel about where my iPhone ended up will probably be released before that. I am in the pre-production of that film now and I am planning on releasing it next year. It all depends on the developments of the story

raven_aimee7 karma

Hi, interesting film, a bit on the stretched side, but still great. I wanted to ask a few things:

  1. the phone woke up in Romania - did it get sold to someone else?

  2. did you have a chance to see the CCTV of it being stolen? Is it really the same man who took it, or did someone else did that?

  3. Do you think, that such an approach would have worked with a little bit more advanced users/thieves?

  4. How did you lock the system partition from being reflashed/updated? As a tech savvy person, this was the one technical detail that got me going :)

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer7 karma

  1. The phone woke up with a Romanian user, it wasn't in Romania. It already has a new users and is in a new country again (so now a third owner). I am not going to spoil more than this but I think the sequel will surprise a lot of people.

  2. We were witnesses of the theft, my girlfriend looked the man in the eyes a moment before he stole the phone. The whole point of going to the police that night and filing the report the next morning was to have an official document that discribes what the man looked like. As you can hear the first time the man appears in a picture, the description we gave the police officer fits the man on the photo. Also my girlfriend immediately recognized him in the pictures. Besides that we have a lot of supporting evidence it's the same guy. It is privacy sensitive information (like phonenumbers he called the first few minutes etc.) so I can't publish it. Also, he didn't reset the phone so even if it was a buyer, he could have known the phone was stolen because all my pictures and accounts were still connected to the phone and I definitely did not sell him the phone. We were not allowed to see the CCTV recordings.

  3. yes I do believe that. I prepared the phone with advanced thiefs in mind.

  4. I am not going to get into to much detail about that because I don't want this information to be used by the wrong people or encourage anyone to spy or redo this project but here we go. I had a lot of help from Mr_Bartek. He explained it on reddit very easily befor so I am going to quote him:

"Basically the phone was S-OFF'd first. Next we modified the ROM and turned the phone S-ON and locked BL. S-OFF was needed to make the device look stock after installing Cerberus. Some other HTC device specific changes were made in order to stop people from flashing ROMs."

We also unrooted the phone, made some changes so it couldn't find system updates and wiped our traces.

Veega5 karma

Could you expand on the legal aspects? Is what you did legal?

Great film by the way, next time I hope you'll manage to work with a smartphone producers company to install a hidden sim inside the phone so you have full control, and somehow fake the "powered off" status of the phone itself.

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer6 karma

I was operating in a grey area. It basically comes down to this: Spying or hacking someone is illegal.

But technically I was doing it with my own device. As an artist and journalist I had a have a some more rights.

There are a few important things I had to take in account. - proportionality; I couldn't just spy as much as I wanted but only collected the necessary data I needed for the film. This is also why in the sequel I will focus on less privacy sensitive data. - social importance: The reason I made the film and came up with the concept. - maximizing the impact while minimizing the negative consequences: I got a lot of media coverage, in every interview I explain my motives. On the other side I censored the data of the guy.

The most important thing is the motive. I did this project to start a discussion about privacy on smartphones and make people aware of the issue. I believe the film is a very effective way to really show what kind of data you can collect and what the consequences of it can be.

Even though not everyone gets the point at first, people now subconsciously realize that getting your smartphone hacked is possible, easy and the amount of data you can collect is enormous. I hope all people who see the film will realize the risk of getting hacked on smartphones, by hackers and governments. On computers, most people use virus scans, install updates and some people even put tape on their webcams while almost nobody even considers how vulnerable a smartphone is, and what the implications of getting hacked mean.

I think the film already created a lot of awareness and started discussions about it. I don't want to encourage anyone to redo this experiment because the film already made the point. I didn't make the film for entertainment. Hacking of phones is a big business and there are plenty recent examples of phones getting hacked. During my research I came across a lot of malware for smartphones that was sold pretty cheap. The problem is already there, unfortunately people are not as aware as they should.

That doesn't guarantee I won't get thrown in jail, but I did the best I could to prevent it while still be able to publish the film

TheStormers5 karma

What are the unexpected/interesting results of your film going viral?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer6 karma

I wasn't expecting the film to go viral. So that was actually unexpected for me.

Spartak1014 karma

Why not confront him? Also, how do you feel about the responses regarding the nationality of the thief and ongoing refugee discussion?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer12 karma

It was never my intention to confront the guy because I was investigating where stolen phones end up. I was hoping the phone would turn up somewhere else, which it did 7 months later. Even though the story of this guy stops at the end, the story about the phone still continuous on.

I think the reactions regarding the nationality, where people blame his behaviour on it are terrible. It is a fact the guy was a Egyptian. In the film I wanted to tell a story about the human side of the thief, and religion and ethnicity are a big part of somebodies identity. That's the only reason I mentioned it.

But the thief could have been anyone. It's just coincidence. It also doesn't say anything about the country he is from. There are always idiots who will blame bad behaviour on ethnicity. Fortunately the big majority just sees a man as a man and not as race or colour.

The opposite reactions were people claim I made the film to spread hate and Islamophobia are just as bad and actually are quite racist as well. Just because I am a western white guy doesn't mean I hate Arabic people.

But it's typical for the time we are living in.

Frentis4 karma

Hey Anthony

I thought your video was really interesting and I like the way you edited it. I have a couple of questions I hope that's alright.

First what made you curious about making a film about your phone being stolen?

Secondly what sort of ethical considerations did you do before, doing and after shooting your shortfilm?

Cheers from Denmark!

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer6 karma

Hey! Thank you!

There were a couple of things that made me curious about the story of a stolen phone. Let me summerize it for you.

  1. My iPhone got stolen by a thief who did it in such a way, I am almost certain she was a trained professional thief. Since she would probably never use the phone herself, it made me wonder. What would happen with the phone after the theft? Where would it eventually end up?

  2. Whe tried to track the thief through find my iPhone. We could only follow the phone for a few minutes. By the time we and the police were close to the phone, it went offline. Although this sucked, chasing the thief was actually pretty exciting.

  3. I had a lot of personal information on the iPhone. When I lost it, I suddenly realized how much we all depend on our smartphones. It isn't just a device we only communicate with. It's far more intimated than that. I think it is one of the most intimated devices a person can use (we take it everywhere we go, communicate with our loved ones and affairs with it, make (nude)pictures etc.) Having aces to all that information could tell a lot about a person, even the things he or she would never share with other people. That kind of creeps me out. By making the film I wanted to create awareness of that. Imagine you getting hacked!

About the ethical considerations:


I had a couple of rules I followed. For instance, I did not want the phone to be found. It had to be clearly stolen. Also, if the thief sold the phone immediately, I would follow the location of the phone and collect some metadata to find out where it would end up. If it was just sold in the Netherlands again, I would deactivate the app and start over with a new phone.


I wanted to follow the phone until I had enough information to make a story. Alltough I collected data everyday, I did it only once or maybe twice a day, at different times each day. I would stop collecting data after a few weeks and than collect weekly and eventually monthly if necessary. This has to do with proportionality. But after two weeks, the phone went offline.


I made sure to anonymize the man. Not only did I blur his face, all the phone numbers you see in the film mis at least 2 digits and I have shuffled the numbers a bit. Even the house in the end doesn't have a number. I think a lot of people didn't notice this. This was of course intentionally. I always hate it when tv shows blurr and make it extremely ugly and messy.

McTurtel4 karma

What's the first thing to consider when doing a film. Is it story? Characters? Scenes?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer3 karma

I always start with a story idea. I always try to minimize the characters and make a draft were I just summarize the crucial scenes to tell the story. I think that's a good way to start.

failedgamor3 karma

I really enjoyed watching your film, it was beautifully made. So here's my question:

Most of my projects will involve privacy, hacking and cybercrime

What got you into these topics, was it from a young age or a recent thing?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer5 karma

I started to get interested in these topics when I was around the age of 19. I always liked technology but was never really thinking about the negative consequences have. I was and am very interested in Wiki leaks and the Snowden revelations. Snowden really kickstarted my interest in the subjects. When I did research for the film I really dived into the material as well. I now am politicly active on these subjects by giving speeches and workshops, soon even for politicians to help defend our privacy rights.

Timmayyyyyyy3 karma

As a student, are you studying film? What is your background on making films in general, and where do you hope to go in the future with film making?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer4 karma

I studied film on a Art academy in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I am now working as a freelance director and I give speeches and workshops about privacy, hacking and cybercrime.

MrDeriuzz3 karma

how did you get all the resources needed for the video? was it hard? how long dit it all took you?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer4 karma

I took me about a year of technical research before making the film and a year after making about the legal consequences the film might have.

As a student I didn't have a big budget. I paid for the film myself, so from paying the composer of the music to buying the phone and testing different spyware.

MrMytie3 karma

How did you do that zoom into the map? Was that google or apple maps? Was it a screen capture? I've tried doing it but can't manage it in one click.

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer3 karma

I used Google Maps and recorded the screen really closely so you can see the pixels

MartijnOostra2 karma

Did you get inspired by the story of Frederik De Bosschere’s stolen phone? ( /

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer1 karma

I was already in the preproduction of the film when I heard about that project. So it wasn't really an inspiration for me but I did like it. There was a point in his project where in my opinion he just strated shaming the guy and didn't really add anything to the story but other than that I like it.

pkx6162 karma

Did you watch this movie/presentation about a guy who did a similar thing with his Mac? DEF CON 18 - Zoz - Pwned By The Owner: What Happens When You Steal A Hacker's Computer He had his Mac stolen, but he was able to access it remotely and get some data and pictures of the thief.

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer2 karma

I love that presentation. When I was doing research I tried to find similar projects to make sure my concept was still was original and relevant. I came across that video. It's a great story but with a completely different approach.

Benjolia2 karma

Excellent job, this was really intriguing. That ending definitely left me wanting more too, damn it!

After seeing your shortfilm gain so many views so quickly, do you think there is any chance, realistically speaking, that the thief will see it? How would that make you feel?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer6 karma

Thank you! I just answered this question so: There is a big chance the man has seen the film. Maybe it's naive but I hope it will be an eye-opener for him to change his life around in a positive way. He already got rid of the phone after two weeks so that won't be a problem.

And if I do get killed, a few million people know who probably has done it ;)

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer2 karma

I will be away for a couple of hours. I will come back to reply on the top comments.

LTNyo1 karma

Do you think there's a connection between you putting credit on his account and him realising that and therefore taking the SIM out? Great project, found it interesting.

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer3 karma

I don't really think so as he used the phone some time after that, but I am not 100% sure. People on drugs can get very paranoid so maybe. But if I had to guess he probably needed money and sold the phone

Adriaan19971 karma

Geweldige film en prachtig in beeld gebracht! Had voor mij nog langer mogen duren!

Questions: 1. Considering the popularity of the film, aren't you afraid there is a big chance the thief has seen it and as a result will throw his phone away? (Making the possibility of a sequel even smaller)

...Or did you already collect some footage you didn't tell us about? ;)

  1. Will you try to confront him if you think the phone will never go online again?

Groetjes uit NL!

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer3 karma

Thanks man!

  1. There is a big chance the man has seen the film. Maybe it's naive but I hope it will be an eye-opener for him to change his life around in a positive way. He already got rid of the phone after two weeks so that won't be a problem.
  2. Check the last 15 seconds of the film ;)

DrrugCrni1 karma

Loved your film! Are you planning on doing some other projects like this?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer4 karma

Thank you!

I am working on a lot of new projects, including a prequel (what happend to my iPhone?) and sequel (the full life cycle of a stolen phone) of Find my Phone.

Most of my projects will involve privacy, hacking and cybercrime but I am also working on a film about education.

danososa1 karma

Let's say some big movie company is interesting in buying the credits of your short film and make it bigger. Will you be interest it in selling it?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer2 karma

I am not sure if I understand the question correctly. I don't think there was enough material to make the film longer.

If you mean the concept, I would refer to my previous answer. This was not a project for pure entertainment. So it really depends on what the motives of the movie company would be and who's in control of the project.

sloes1 karma


FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer3 karma

It was never my intention to confront the guy because I was investigating where stolen phones end up. I was hoping the phone would turn up somewhere else, which it did 7 months later. Even though the story of this guy stops at the end, the story about the phone still continuous on.

I went to all the places that were important to the story to take some footage I never used besides that last scene. I thought I could might catch a glimpse of the guy to see if he was still in the Netherlands. If he wasn't I would explain why It didn't have internet connection. I was all by myself and was holding a mono pod. If I had the intention to confront him, I wouldn't have gone alone.

Blacomer1 karma

"the more sympathy I got for him" - I can't really wrap my head around this. You knew that he was a thief and was selling cocaine to that girl, who probably was mentally ill. He was also having sex with her (or both girls), what I'd qualify as something what a decent person would never ever had done.
How could you have any sympathy to that guy?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer3 karma

Well, I have answered this question a lot so I will quote a previous answer. "I started to feel sorry for the thief because I interpreted all of the data I got in a way which made me feel sorry for him. What if I wanted to see him as a criminal? Or a terrorist? The data would allow me to do that because some of his behaviour can be found suspicious. In the end I was actually shocked when I saw the guy in real life. He didn't look as lonely, sad and old as I thought he looked in the footage I took. Instead he looked pretty fit, smelled like drugs and came very aggressive and suspicious towards me. I saw this man every day, two weeks long so I thought I knew him. The para-social band I had with him (a one-sided band trough a screen) fooled me."

To add some extra things. As you may not realize, just because the guy bragged about the girls to his friend, this is not solid evidence he actually does what he says. Also, a lot of information wasn't translated before I met him in real life and felt sorry for him. This is btw a common problem that a lot of spy agencies also face, collecting data but don't have the capacity to have their translations and analytics on time.

Wosiru1 karma

Are you scared of legal actions that could take Netherlands or even the thief ?

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer2 karma

Not really scared but there is a chance a law suit will be follow. I tried to minimize the chance of that happening though. You can read about it in a previous post.

In general I think journalist should follow their hart and have the guts to sometimes reach the boarder of legal and illegal if the story is important enough. If every journalist stops working when they feel threatened, we won't have any news but only press releases. I think this is a problem a lot of countries face. Some of the main stream media seems to be in bed with politics and corporations.

pkx6161 karma

Did you use encryption on your stolen iPhone? Did you use a sophisticated screen locking feature on the iPhone? (ie. fingerprint-based, password, long pin [5 digits or more]) Or did you use a slide-to-unlock or a simple draw-a-pattern-unlock?

I understand that the decoy Android phone was unencrypted and unlocked (screen) on purpose.

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer1 karma

My iPhone got stolen in January 2014. It was an iPhone 5 and had a simple lock screen (code). As you may know there were a lot of lockscreen bypasses for the older iOS versions and even the newest was recently patched because of a glitch that allowed going through the contacts and photo's whole the iPhone was still locked.

But for me that wasn't even relevant as the phone was unlocked because I was making notes when it was stolen.

dragonsky1 karma

I really liked your movie. I have no question but I felt like your short film was one of the better videos on youtube in 2016. I really admire your courage and (sort of?) investigative journalism so you can get to the bottom of the story. Do you consider doing more serious documentary movies? (serious in a sense of make them commercially if you find sponsors, or documentaries that might get nominated for Awards or stuff?)

FMP_Anthony_vd_Meer2 karma

Thank you!

Find my phone got nominated for a few awards (drempel award, maaskant award) but I never really was actively sending it in to international festivals because I wanted the international version film to be online within a month after the Dutch release.

I am working on several projects that have a bigger budget (still not a lot) and still am looking for the right partner for some other projects. I am a director and have to try to make a living out of it, so definitely!