GadgetTrak launches camera tracking service


posted Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 4:14 PM EST

CameraTrace's logo. Click here to visit the CameraTrace website!Device tracking company GadgetTrak has officially launched its camera tracking service, dubbed "CameraTrace".

Previously available in beta under the name GadgetTrak Serial Search, the tool relies on web crawlers that seek out image files on photo sharing websites. Each file downloaded by the crawler is checked for a serial number in the EXIF headers, and if a serial number known to be stolen is found, this is reported to the owner. GadgetTrak claims to have scanned more than five billion images, although it doesn't provide any information as to which sites it monitors, nor what proportion of these images included a serial number in the EXIF headers. (Images which have been processed after capture will frequently lack some or all EXIF information, if the software used to perform alterations to the image doesn't recognize the data, or has intentionally stripped it. Likewise, some websites will strip this information as a matter of routine in recompressing images for sharing, reserving access to the original images for the uploader themselves.)

Still, to someone who's lost an expensive camera body, some chance to retrieve it is better than none at all, even if the odds aren't great. GadgetTrak also provides one metallic tag that can be affixed to each camera body registered, providing a way to return cameras that were accidentally lost and recovered by an honest individual. As evidence that the service can pay dividends, the company holds forth the case of pro photographer John Heller, who retrieved a Nikon D3 that was stolen from him at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater, before being resold on Ebay and Craigslist.

CameraTrace is priced at US$10 per camera registered with the company, and an added benefit of the service is that it can be used to find sites that may be using unlicensed images shot with a particular camera, should the EXIF headers be retained. More details can be found in the GadgetTrak blog.