As anti-theft technology increases, there’s little question that life is becoming increasingly harder for thieves. GPS tracking technology has meant that your average thief can no longer get away with an easy crime any more. If an object is tracked, the owner will be able to trace it and ultimately recover it. But if the tracking technology is so advanced, will we ever reach the point where things become unstealable?It might sound like a plot from some kind of futuristic thriller, but ordinary people do have the ability to track stolen items. For instance, when Joshua Kaufman had his laptop stolen recently he knew exactly where it was, and who had it. He’d installed downloaded anti-theft software that enabled him to remotely photograph the man using the laptop, and find its exact location. The man in question was a taxi driver, later charged with possession of stolen property, although the charges were dismissed because of lack of evidence. That man's face, staring blankly into a computer screen, has now been seen across the world, as Mr Kaufman decided to share it online. People saw him sleeping on the sofa, driving, and lying half naked in bed.
Katy McCaffrey suffered a similar experience. Her iPhone was stolen whilst on holiday on a cruise ship. She was able to monitor every photograph taken on it by the thief as they were automatically uploaded on to her remote iCloud account. The thief unknowingly went on to star in Ms McCaffrey’s Facebook album Stolen iPhone Adventures.
Kaufman used the Hidden app which tracks the location of laptops as well as sending photos to the owner. But there are numerous basic GPS tracking apps that can now make a thief’s life difficult. Find My iPhone is perhaps one of the best publicised apps, but there are a number of others, as well as applications for Android phones. As long as the user has an app and has GPS enabled they've got a chance of finding their phone. There have always been ways of marking your property, whether using a crude method like a UV pen or something more recent like the Smartwater marking system. But that relies on the authorities finding the item in the first place. GPS devices are a significant step forward, and offer proactive protection against loss and theft.
So does this technology make stealing more difficult? Or will petty thieves and opportunists need to become much more technologically-savvy if they are to gain any benefit from their ill-gotten gains? Well, according to Tom Clarke, a software engineer, it won’t necessarily prevent theft, but it will certainly make it less appealing. Speaking to the BBC after the theft of his iPad, he commented:
"Stealing is more difficult, and it's also just becoming more of a hassle. This technology doesn't necessarily make something impossible to steal; it just makes things less appealing. I never got my iPad back, but I have locked it, which means whoever had it was unable to do anything with it. It became unusable."