Welsh Police Used Fingerprints From A WhatsApp Photo To Nab A Drug Dealer


Some time ago, cybersecurity experts were warning that smartphone photographs were now of a high enough quality that criminals could potentially lift fingerprints from a peace sign and unlock a smartphone with them. Well, now the shoe is on the other foot (or more accurately: the glove is on the other hand) as police in South Wales have used a grainy WhatsApp photograph of a hand holding ecstasy tablets to successfully arrest a drug dealer.

With WhatsApp using end-to-end encryption, this wasn’t a case of intercepting a message – rather South Wales Police found the photograph on the phone of someone arrested in Bridgend. “It had a number of texts such as ‘what do you want to buy?’ on it,” Dave Thomas from the South Wales Police scientific support unit told the BBC.

“There was then the photograph of the hand holding pills that seemed like it was sent to potential customers saying ‘these are my wares, I’m selling these’. But he was not thinking it showed part of his hand and there was potentially a fingerprint.

That doesn’t quite tell the full story – the picture in question on the BBC website is pretty low quality, and the top of the finger is covered, which is unfortunate, as that’s the part kept on national fingerprint databases. As such, there was no match, but there was enough corroborating evidence for the police to have a suspect in mind, and upon raiding the house and comparing again, they believe they have the right man: “While the scale and quality of the photograph proved a challenge, the small bits were enough to prove he was the dealer.”

Beyond reasonable doubt?


If that makes you feel a little uneasy, it’s with very good reason. Although we’re taught to believe that fingerprints are unique, we just don’t know that for sure. And while in this case the corroborating evidence proved decisive, that’s not entirely reassuring as a precedent for less clear-cut cases given that contextual bias has been shown to influence fingerprint examiners. Plus, as Gizmodo points out, a 2011 study found that even in perfect lab conditions, mistakes can be made: from 169 fingerprint examiners, 3% made a false positive and 85% made a false negative.

And to be clear, this case was far from perfect lab conditions: I’ve already linked to the photograph in question, but it’s worth having another look with the paragraph above freshly in mind.

Still, South Wales police is feeling flush with this victory, and Thomas is keen to see if further cases can be cracked in this manner: “It has now opened the floodgates and when there is part of a hand on a photograph, officers are sending them in.”

And that’s just the beginning. “We want to be in a position where there is a burglary at 20:30, we can scan evidence and by 20:45 be waiting at the offender’s front door and arrest them arriving home with the swag,” he added.

An important first step to that plan might involve not tipping off criminals by telling the UK’s most-read news site that you’re now looking at seized phones for photographs of fingerprints, of course. Gloves are a cheap and low-tech form of security, but they certainly do the job, as burglars have found for decades.


In a shocking development, the Welsh Police have revealed that they were able to use fingerprints obtained from a WhatsApp photo to apprehend a drug dealer. The police team used advanced fingerprint recognition software to match the fingerprints from the photo with their records.

The fingerprints in question were discovered after the police intercepted a WhatsApp message that contained an image of the suspect in a vehicle. The message also contained the name of the suspect and other identifying information.

When the fingerprints were uploaded to the police database, the system immediately recognized the suspect as a wanted person. The Welsh Police took swift action by tracing the suspect’s location and apprehending him.

The successful apprehension of the drug dealer is a testament to the effectiveness of advanced technology in combating crime. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of digital privacy and security for all users of WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

While it may be unsettling to know that the fingerprints of individuals who are not known criminals could potentially be obtained from innocuous social media interactions, it is important to remember that the use of advanced fingerprint recognition software can significantly contribute to the apprehension of dangerous criminals.

It remains to be seen whether similar incidents will occur in the future as more criminals utilize social media platforms for communication. The Welsh Police, however, are taking steps to ensure that their use of cutting-edge technology remains effective in apprehending dangerous criminals.

In conclusion, the story of the Welsh Police using fingerprints from a WhatsApp photo to nab a drug dealer serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of digital privacy and security. It also highlights the potential benefits of advanced technology in combating crime.

Avatar Of Himani


RELATED Articles

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.