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All those hilarious “enhance” memes from crime and sci-fi shows finally seem to be coming to fruition in the real world. In South Wales in the U.K., a WhatsApp photo of a man holding ecstasy tablets was used by local authorities to help make 11 drug convictions, BBC News reports.
The photo was of a person holding a handful of the tablets, but it also showed part of his hand—and with that, his own fingerprints. However, only the lower half of the fingerprint was visible and fingerprint databases only store the top portion. Because of that, the officers were unable to use the fingerprint in a database search. However, they did have suspects in the case and were able to match the prints to one of those people.
Officers are calling the use of this photo and the fingerprint therein, a “groundbreaking” technique. It’s the first time convictions have been made using fingerprints gleaned from a photo in that jurisdiction.
It’s also an example of the growing importance social media is playing in criminal investigations, a trend that’s been growing since around 2012. People often post evidence of their crimes to social media, but police have grown wise to that fact and are using it to their advantage. And because smartphone camera photos are so high quality now, photos shared to social media can provide extremely useful details and information—like the fingerprint in this case. Police have also used social media to help crack down on crime and guns in a particularly crime-riddled borough of New York.
According to BBC News, police hope to incorporate social media, remote transmission of data and evidence, and other technologies to help identify and apprehend criminals less than an hour after a crime takes place. That goal is still a ways off in the future, though.
H/T BBC News
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.