A man arrested for possessing an allegedly stolen laptop may be in court today because of a brilliant PR campaign by the owner of said laptop but there was a lot of technology that went into getting the story to go viral.
Oakland resident Joshua Kaufman became an Internet celebrity this past week after he posted spy photos of a man he said had taken his laptop.
Kaufman decided to take matters into his own hands after not receiving the help he wanted from his local police department.
He launched a blog called thisguyhasmymacbook.tumblr.com and posted photos of the alleged thief using his MacBook. The blog received a lot of press and the Oakland Police Department paid attention.
A sting was set up and 27-year-old Muthanna Aldebashi of Alameda was arrested for suspicion of possessing stolen goods.
None of this would have been possible if Kaufman had not set his laptop up with a British made app called Hidden.
Some have suggested that Kaufman's story was an elaborate marketing ploy to get attention for the app developed by Flipcode Ltd.
But as the arrests suggest and the CEO of the company, Toby de Havilland, say, that is not the case.
He says his company can related to Kaufman's story. After all the idea for Hidden came from a friend who had his laptop stolen.
de Havilland spoke with us from London before Aldebashi was arrested. He said while his company does not disclose how many users of the $15 a year service there are, the numbers are in the "hundreds of thousands."
How the app works is quite simple as well. Users have full control over their data and when spy shots should be taken.
"We take our users security and privacy extremely seriously," de Havilland said. "Only the user with access to the account can activate tracking and they have the option to permanently delete all collected data."
Hidden is activated once a user logs into hiddenapp.com on a mobile or secondary device and reports his or her computer as stolen.
Then the app gets busy.
"It works by collecting network and location data using WiFi Triangulation from Skyhook Wireless," de Havilland said. "We also collect photos using the inbuilt iSight camera and screenshots of the computer in use."
Hidden also collects the public IP, ifconfig data and trace route data along with the Wi-Fi triangulation data from Skyhook.
While all that information collection can sound scary, de Havilland insists users can delete any of it at any time.
And just how many stories like Kaufman's are there out there?
"We have hundreds of success stories," de Havilland said.