The rise of the "selfie" is due in part to an increased access to better technology. More people now have better cameras, better phones, better data transmission, and an increased use of social networks. However, the human desire to show off, brag, or make others jealous has many social media users taking pictures of every event in their lives, even the ones that should not be publicized. Criminals are not immune to this type of exhibitionism, and unfortunately for them, selfies can lead the police right to their doors.
Two men in Texas were recently arrested for theft after stealing an iPad, and almost $5,000 in cash from a car in Houston. Thinking they'd made a good score, they were intent to show off their good fortune. They went to a local fast food restaurant, and began taking selfies using the stolen iPad. The two men, aged 20 and 22, flashed the cash as well as their smiles, proclaiming, "Hello America. This, my good people, is what we get, from a good night's hustle."
The owner of the stolen iPad logged into their iCloud account, and was immediately greeted with the shots of the two people bragging about stealing his money and tablet. It did not take long before these two men got their pictures in the public spotlight, showing up on local news. The two men were arrested shortly after. According to a local police constable, given the young age of the suspects, it was surprising they were not tech savvy enough to know that the images are automatically uploaded to the cloud.
Last year, the New York Magazine published an article citing the iCloud selfie as a "New Frontier for Dumb Criminals." Police across the country are encountering an increase in the use of cloud photos to trace criminals to unlawful activity, including manufacturing methamphetamines. The criminals are doing the police work for the cops, posing for multiple photos, complete with admissions and evidence of themselves with the stolen merchandise, and passing the photos along to the victims accessible iCloud accounts.
The criminal selfie is not just an American phenomenon. In Sweden, two teenage girls put themselves one step further into jail after taking a selfie of themselves dressed as robbers, holding a knife before committing a robbery. A drug mule in England was so proud of his payday that he took a selfie while kissing wads of cash. Other criminals in England were sure to cover their faces during armed robberies, but not so clever as to cover their tracks when they took selfies while posing with firearms, and their robbery outfits.
In a much darker crime, a teenager in Pennsylvania is being charged with with killing a classmate after photographing himself at the crime scene. A 16-year-old boy, Ryan Mangan, was found in his home, shot once in the face. The suspect, Maxwell Morton, also 16, then allegedly took a Snapchat selfie with the victim. Snapchat deletes photos automatically after a short time, but the boy who received the image saved the photo before deletion. Morton has been charged as an adult, with first-degree murder, homicide, and possession of a firearm by a minor.