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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.

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.

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_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.

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