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[flagged] WhatsApp photo drug dealer caught by 'groundbreaking' work (bbc.com)
49 points by vezycash 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments



The article itself states that they weren’t able to get usable fingerprints from the photo, and instead the offender was arrested from other evidence.

> However, there were just parts of the middle and bottom of a finger visible - records only keep the top part. This meant the image did not find a match on national databases.

> However, other evidence meant officers had an idea who they believed was behind the drugs operation.

So, what’s the story here? What a complete fucking sham of a propagandist article.


You're exactly right. This type of thing happens quite often in BBC articles - they are very brief and seem to be written for the lowest common denominator so they omit so many crutial details that the article becomes almost a complete waste of time to read, especially if the article is on a technical field like criminal forensics.


You're right, but they used the photo as evidence to convict someone. They couldn't get a match on a national database, but it's possible that they could tell which of the 3 held the bag.

There's another story to this too, I bet someone is developing a tool right now to scan fingerprints from youtube videos and photos. Maybe they can also plant them. The idea itself opens a new array of possibilities.


That's a terrifying thought. For example the DeepFakes scandal was based on convincingly plastering celebrity's faces onto other video. If you had good data on someone's fingerprints I imagine it's inevitable that at some point you could do the same to put their fingerprints onto a photo of a hand.


Terrible article but reading between the lines:

The photo did not contain finger-tips, which are the only prints stored in the database so they could not simply search it for the person. It only contained prints from the middle of a finger.

However they had a limited number of people of interest that they suspected were involved so they could just take palm prints from those and use that to prove whose hand it was.

I wouldn't exactly call it ground breaking but it's pretty cool.


My “reading between the lines” is that they tried to get fingerprints from the photo but were unable to. They then used other evidence, like the WhatsApp group to narrow down or find the suspect, then POSSIBLY the photo was used as the “nail in the coffin”.

Then PR or whatever found out about the story and turned it into a “we’re coming for you”/“police so advanced” puff piece which was regurgitated by the BBC.


Very strange and misleading article. They talk about using a photo of a finger to catch someone based on their finger print. But then later on they write: "However, there were just parts of the middle and bottom of a finger visible - records only keep the top part.This meant the image did not find a match on national databases."

So really neither the fingerprint or whatsapp had anything to do with the arrest.


Sounded something like parallel construction to me.

We think it’s this guy and we can match a small portion of his fingerprint with the picture.

Maybe it’s statistically significant beyond reasonable doubt but seems like a little too much of a stretch to me.


This is not parallel construction, assuming their "other reasons" for suspecting these people are legitimate and disclosed. Parallel construction is when law enforcement receives information about a crime in an illegal way or a way that cannot be disclosed, and reconstructs a plausible way in which the crime might have been discovered.

This is just building enough evidence to convict someone based on matching a photograph of a partial finger to a suspect's hand. Which sounds perfectly reasonable and legitimate (as legitimate as fingerprints can be). Just because there's not enough in the photo to match a national database doesn't mean there's not enough to be statistically certain it's a match with the suspect.


That’s why I said “something like”, it’s not quite parallel construction but something like I already know it was you, and I can see part of your fingerprint in this photo

The article is light on details about how the fingerprint was actually used so one can only speculate. My assumption here though is that whatever they recovered wouldn’t stand up on its own but used in conjunction with other evidence it might have added to the case against the parties.

It’s hardly as impressive as the article title makes it out to be.


It did - they had a smaller list of suspects and used the palm print to match against one of them, rather than searching the entire UK database for a fingerprint. At least that's what it sounds like. You're right this is a really badly written article.


And of course fingerprints aren't the black and white identifier we had thought previously.

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/can-unconscious-b...


is such an in depth invasion of privacy (looking at everything in the phone of someone without proof of their wrongdoing) really worth it to catch drug dealers? drug dealing really is not the end of the world


And MDMA and cannabis at that. One kills less % of users than ibuprofen and the other kills no one. Modern day witch burning.


They don't even need to look at the guys phone, he is a drug dealer who operates over whatsapp. Get on his list of numbers and he'll send you the evidence on his own.


Alright, this is a literal fingerprint, it's not like WhatsApp places "fingerprints" in pictures apart from, well, photos of fingerprints in a picture. Was worried for a moment there.


Ah.. maybe there is..

and they are pretending it was his physical fingerprints that led to his arrest as a cover :)


They are not pretending that. The article states that the fingerprints in the photo were unusable.


Is "WhatsApp photo drug dealer" a meme with which I'm unfamiliar?


It's whoever 4chan is.


Yet another dangerous cannabis dealer apprehended. 8.5 years in the slammer well deserved. Wales LE is truly doing God's work.


I really have a hard time taking both the police and the journalists serious. The first for mis-directing all these resources while I believe must they have much more serious crimes not getting any attention, and the latter for not being critical of this in the least bit.

Victimless crime does not exist in my book. Having it in the law books says a lot about the those who wrote it.


It's odd that the pills are branded with "IKEA" and "Skype". I wonder why that is desirable by the consumers and producers?


I'll answer this as a long time ecstasy user. Pill producers make their pills in a variety of shapes and colors and for them it's mostly about marketing. When I was in high school "rolexes" and "supermans" were some of the most sought after rolls in New York. They were sought after because they had a reputation for being high quality. However if you've been around longer than five minutes you know it's easy for other people to also make pills, possibly of bad quality, in the same shape and color and so producers would change their shapes and colors constantly to try to stay ahead of the fakes.

For users the appeal of corporate branded pills is that it's sort of fun/funny to see something so illicit branded with something so commonplace. It's almost a joke. As if IKEA or Microsoft sold ecstasy.


Neither finds that aspect of the pills incredibly engaging. It's a means of authenticating a batch of pills, while using coded parlance, so that people develop a sense of getting what they paid for, while latching onto a memorable detail, and communicating in slang that flies under the radar.

No one cares about those stupid logos, or infringement or whatever. It's more about shared secrets and awareness of undisclosed details while dropping hints and passing around code words on the sly.

Now that these code words have been leaked in a bust, they'll google some other logos, print them out, mold them into the pill press, and next week's batch will be "Bob's Discount Furniture" and "Facetime" or whatever.


The same reason why brands are desirable in legal markets. Mainly for quality control and the ability for the user to ask for a specific pill that they enjoyed or heard good things about. That they use well known brands is a side effect of it a being a black market. Why develop a brand of your own that could be taken away at any moment? Reuse well known brands so people will remember them.


One reason is to give dealers and customers a level of plausible deniability about their activities after the fact.

If a text message is asking for Angel Dust or ICE, the defense attorney will have a harder time than if the text message is asking about IKEA or Gorilla Glue.


Is this really true? Has a drug trial ever hinged on convincing a jury of the meaning of code words?


You just need a logo that’s recognizable in a stamp at a glance. Piggy backing off of established brands is the easiest way to do it.


"We enhanced a fingerprint that was barely legible. He dun it!"

I honestly wonder if they are using some ML-style hallucination algo. Because most non-technical folk don't understand that the details are missing, and any attempt to fill them in usually requires a great deal of liberty.

Anyways, they probably used the weak evidence to get the warrant for the raid. And then he confessed and there was all the evidence in his home. It's common as rain, use faulty evidence in order to secure confessions or actual court-admissable evidence. Egh.


It is the Internet — the sarcasm tag should be explicit.




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