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Facebook Found my iPhone

Facebook Found My Lost iPhone

My mom was always asking me to help her out with her crappy phones. She always had trouble with emailing pictures, posting to Facebook, everyday phone configurations or even keeping her phone charged. She even decided to get an Android phone to be able to so all those things herself. This was even worst because then I had to actually learn how to use an Android phone in order to help her.

So I finally got her an iPhone 4 and she loved it. One day she tells me in a breaking voice:

“I lost the phone”

It hurt. Perhaps more than it should, after all, its just a phone, right? I’m an Apple fanboy so it meant a lot to me. But what’s so special about iPhones after all? Maybe my zeal for Apple stuff was after all, overrated.

I did what I could to recover it. I visited the last place she remembered having it and even offered $500 reward for it. You might think that’s overdoing it, but you’d be wrong. We live in a country where information is worth a lot more than a piece of hardware. When you lose your phone with contact information and access to your emails and other online resources, you are exposed to kidnappers, extortionists and such. And not being very techie, my mom hadn’t added a Passlock, much less configured FindmyiPhone on the device.

So I proceeded to change email, fb and AppleID passwords. I also blocked the SIM by reporting it stolen to the mobile carrier. I figured at least this way they wont have access to emails, the AppStore and more. But I was still worried that the thief had access to our family’s phone numbers, emails etc. I even decided to change my 9 year old phone number. But there was little else I could do. Oh well, it’s lost…get over it!

Two weeks later a strange post shows up on my moms fb wall. A girl posing for pictures in a known store in our city. The store name in the background of one of the pictures.

My sister calls me and tells me to look at my mom’s fb wall. She also told my mom who was having lunch with my wife. They recognized the store so my dad and my wife drove to the store and confronted the attendant. They asked her if she had seen an iPhone they’d lost a few days ago in that same store. She denied having seen it. So immediately my wife pops up facebook on another phone and showed her how she appeared in a picture with the store name in the background, wearing the same clothes she was wearing that day and with a timestamp of 5 minutes ago. The girl froze up! She was pale! She mumbled to the store guard to come out from the back. She finally admitted he had taken the picture with his phone. After negotiating with the guard who had apparently bought the stolen phone a few days back, we recovered the phone. It turns out he was a bodyguard who didn’t speak English and obviously had never used a phone like this and needless to say, was not the tech savvy. But he was a good soul after all since he returned the item.

Morality aside, what puzzled ME was, how come the picture had shown up on my mom’s facebook account if I had reset all passwords. I even contacted a friend who works at Facebook to ask him about it. After checking out the recovered iPhone, we noticed a Facebook icon with his name under the icon Instead of “Facebook”. It turns out he had created a Safari link on his springboard to his Facebook account. The native iOS Facebook app still had my mother’s account on it. Apparently he had been using his facebook account from the web browser. So when he took the pictures that day at the store, he must have unknowingly gone to the Photos app and posted the picture directly from Facebook, which used the native iOS app configured with my mother’s FB account.

As to why the app let him use my mom’s account to post if I had changed the account password, that’s another story. I thought it was a fb fluke which is why I originally contacted my friend at Facebook. It turns out my mother had 2 accounts. She had opened a second account in order to avoid some unwanted friends a while back. I had actually changed the password of her OLD account. Her new account password was still working and configured on the iPhone. Had he posted to his Facebook account via the web browser, we never would have seen the post.

After all is said and done, the iPhone’s ease of use proved crucial so that a person who didn’t speak the language and had never used such a sophisticated phone was able to post a picture to Facebook. And Facebook’s time stamp proved useful in determining the relevancy of the post.

We are thankful to both Apple and Facebook founders for their ingenuity and drive in the technology realm.

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