Tech

This picture of cheese helped send a man to prison for 13 years

It’s generally a good idea to be careful about the photos you share online. Share a photo of your vaccination card, for example, and you risk revealing your full name and date of birth, which opens you up to the possibility of identity theft. But you might want to be even more careful if you’re a drug dealer involved in selling heroin and cocaine. Even an innocent picture of a block of cheese can contain enough personal information to help convict you.

We’ve got the UK’s Merseyside Police to thank for the worrying revelation, the Liverpool Echo reports, after they successfully identified drug dealer Carl Stewart (39, of Gem Street, Liverpool) and convicted him of conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and ketamine with the help of a simple photo of a wedge of stilton. It’s not clear why he posted the pic of blue cheese, but Stewart has now been sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison after pleading guilty to the charges, which also included transferring criminal property.

Stewart seems to have made two errors in sharing his cheesy photo. The first is that the photo contained a clear image of his fingerprints and palm, which Merseyside Police were able to analyze and use to identify him. Stewart isn’t the first criminal to have been convicted thanks to fingerprints identified from a photo, but it’s yet another reminder that your fingerprints are far from the top-secret identifiers we often consider them to be.

Second is that he shared the photo on EncroChat, the supposedly encrypted phone system that was compromised by authorities last March, leaving its security with more holes than swiss cheese. Since then, Merseyside Police says authorities have identified around 10,000 of its users in the UK, who are “all involved in coordinating and planning the supply and distribution of drugs and weapons, money laundering and other criminal activity.” A total of 60,000 of its users have been identified worldwide, the police said.

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