Police in South Wales was able to catch a drug dealer by using a photo of his fingerprint taken from WhatsApp. The police weren't sure if they were going to be able to get anything from the picture but they were able to get a match.
Police have called this technique "groundbreaking."
Criminals use WhatsApp because of its encryption, which makes it harder to be identified and now police are trying to stay one step ahead. In the case of a drug dealer from South Wales, police tried something new to be able to catch the criminal and it worked. All it took was a photo that made part of his fingerprints visible.
In the photograph that helped catch the drug dealer, his hand could be seen holding a handful of vacuum-sealed ecstasy tablets. Police sent the image to their scientific support unit where they were able to increase the size of the of the image and improve the clarity.
Police were only able to find parts of the middle and bottom of the finger. When people are arrested, police only take the top part of the fingerprint. These parts of the fingerprint were run on national databases but there was no match.
Police had people in custody who they thought were the person in the image but their fingerprints didn't match as well. They later caught the man in the photograph named Elliott Morris. He was found in a cabin which contained a larger amount of ecstasy pills and a cannabis growing operation.
Dave Thomas of the South Wales Police scientific support unit told the BBC that police will now be looking at photos taken from smartphones more closely for evidence. He adds that police are able to enhance pictures and footage and that they want to make greater use of social media messages.
WhatsApp And Police
In August 2016, WhatsApp made end-to-end encryption a default setting for users. This means that Facebook isn't able to see what their users are sending but law enforcement agencies still approach WhatsApp for information on its users. While it may not hand over message content to the police, it still provides other information that can be used against users.
It doesn't hand over messages but it can hand over metadata that shows which numbers contacted each other on WhatsApp when the users did so and for how long they contacted each other. They could also hand over IP addresses and phone identifiers associated with accounts the police will ask for.
WhatsApp is also able to access location and contact data with the police.