New Lookout security feature sends secret selfie of smartphone thieves

30 May 2014

A Theft Alert, complete with theftie, from Lookout Mobile Security Premium on Android

Mobile security firm Lookout has introduced new measures to help its premium users catch any criminals who pinch their smartphone, by taking a snapshot it has dubbed the ‘theftie’.

This new feature for Lookout Mobile Security can be triggered by somewhat suspicious activity, such as entering the phone’s passcode incorrectly, removing the SIM card, enabling flight mode, switching off the device, or attempting to uninstall the security software – all actions which Lookout has determined smartphone thieves are likely to do.

Should a petty thief try to do this with a Lookout-protected phone, the front-facing camera will be triggered and a snapshot will be sent to the phone-owner’s email address, along with the device’s exact location.

Of course, there’s no guarantee this snapshot will capture the criminal’s face, but the ‘theftie’ plus a map with the phone’s coordinates can surely help users and the proper authorities to catch these thieves.

Unfortunately for iPhone-owners, Apple’s strict control over what applications can control when running in the background means that thefties are for Android users only – but they can still receive alerts of their lost phone’s location.

However, with all major smartphone producers – including Apple – preparing to introduce built-in anti-theft measures by July 2015, we could start seeing features like this on handsets straight out of the box.

Until then, Lookout’s new Theft Alerts feature is available on Android and iOS for premium users only.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.