WhatsApp drug dealer convicted using fingerprints taken from photo

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Police in South Wales have arrested a drug dealer based on a WhatsApp message with a photograph of the dealer’s hand holding an assortment of pills, according to a report from the BBC.

Despite that the photo only offers a glimpse of a small part of the dealer’s fingerprints — which weren’t entirely useful in actually locating the dealer — forensic scientists were able to use those pieces to confirm that the identity of the suspect matched the person police officers had apprehended.

According to Dave Thomas, a representative of the South Wales Police’s scientific support unit, the 11 arrests made through the bust mark the first convictions in Wales based on fingerprints from a photo. It also speaks to the improvement in smartphone camera technology over the past few years, where seemingly innocuous pictures are now detailed enough to serve as forensic evidence when it comes to identifying people.


That is definitely not credibly admissible in any scientific sense. A lot of forensic data used to convict is questionable. This isn’t about how good smartphone cameras are, it’s about how far judges and juries are willing to credit SMAs and convict people. There have been a number of articles recently about the slew of false positives in multiple forensic disciplines, particularly hair and incomplete fingerprint analysis.

1 in 500 chance of error isn’t too terrible of a standard for Judges to grant an arrest warrant. I doubt it was the only thing leading to the conviction. Lesson learned set your camera to 5mp or 8mp if you need 4k, 12mp is overkill.

I feel like the lesson here is more like ’don’t be a drug dealer’.

Everyone’s a drug dealer… Bartenders, Baristas, Movie Theaters, Romantic partners, Obama, Niel Armstrong, they all get you high… I’m not even including all the solid chemicals you’ve probably sold on craigslist… like a chair or lithium bomb/battery. Say your grandma drops a pill in the back of your car and you rent it… bam, you;re a drug dealer

Say your grandma drops a pill in the back of your car and you rent it… bam, you;re a drug dealer

What? No a single pill would not make you a drug dealer, among all of the other nonsense you just spewed.

Pot seeds would get your boat confiscated during the Reagan administration.

LOL, that story is older than many of the people reading this.

That’s still contemporary, laws haven’t changed much since then. It’s all fun and games until your $2.5M party boat gets permanently seized. It’s well known that having stray seeds in your car will get you charged for far worse felonies in many states.

But to be qualified as a dealer there are usually determinations based on the quantitty involved.

Well seeds are not single pills and the Reagan administration ended 30 years ago. Also, boats typically fall under Coast Guard/Federal law whereas traffic stops always start as a state or local crime.

Not that any of that really has anything to do with my comment.

I always wonder why someone would bring up something that happened 30 years ago in order to prove their point.
Try to find an instance of it occurring relatively recently. If you cannot, then it’s clear that it is so infrequent that you have no reason to even quote it.

This says nothing about marijuana seeds, as the purpose of my response was indicating.

Further, this says that, under that law, it is possible to have your vehicle seized if it was used to purchase marijuana.
However, that was reversed with later information on the specific topic.

So your source doesn’t apply in the discussion I was having.

You’re using the word drug as broad as you can think. Similarly, if you step in the grass enough, you’ll become a murder from killing bugs.

Ultimately it’s up to the NSW Supreme Court to determine what’s ‘credibly admissible’ here and, as any first year LS can tell you, the burden is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. That said, I’d wager this matter will never go to trial and the guy will plead out.

It’s SW, not NSW, about 11,000 miles out.

but hey, you can hop on a direct flight to there now

Well darn, I read NSW.

It’d only part of it though. According to the source article they have lots of drug evidence from raids so it’s not the only basis for conviction

Yeah. I read (or could have been podcast) about some of the BS science behind bite marks and using that for convictions. Sounds very similar.

This isn’t about how good smartphone cameras are, it’s about how far judges and juries are willing to credit SMAs and convict people.

It’s about both, because if the smartphone cameras weren’t good enough, it would never get before a judge in the first place.

Given the amount of compression done by WhatsApp to save on bandwidth I don’t believe this speaks to any increase in picture quality.

You know compression has also improved markedly over the years, right?

Still I would be surprised if an expert couldn’t argue that compression could cause inaccuracies.

Right this is obviously true. However, (a) if you use WhatsApps you can see the artifacts from compression and (b) the article argues about camera improvements when all pictures are rescaled and compressed.

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