Lookout on Android now takes pic of phone thieves and snoops

More punch-ups on the horizon?

Security app maker Lookout has added a photo-taking feature on its Android app designed to help owners identify thieves or snoops.

The new feature, called Lock Cam, uses the front-facing camera to take a snapshot of anyone who incorrectly enters a password three times on a locked screen.

Lock Cam will be rolled out to existing Lookout users over the coming week and to premium users immediately, said Lookout. Activation instructions can be found on the company's blog.

After taking the picture -- either of a thief or a snoop -- the app sends the image and location of the device in an email to the account holder.

That’s two more details than the standard “Find my phone” apps, which, as Lookout notes are: “who tried to access your device and where it happened”.

Exactly what people do with that information will be interesting to see, in particular when the device was not stolen, but lost and found by someone unwilling to return it.

While the obvious course of action would be to report a theft, recent iPhone stories in the US, where a lost phone was not returned, show that some people are willing to risk physical confrontation by hunting down or luring in the holder of the phone.

Lookout’s more cautious advice here was “changing or strengthening your password”.

Whatever way people use Lock Cam's output, the app is likely to send a lot of photos. Lookout has 15 million customers around the world, and smartphone theft is on the rise in many major cities.

In NSW, where official recent figures suggest phone theft is flat, there were about 22,000 mobile phone thefts in NSW in 2010.

An earlier study on phone theft by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association found that 28 percent are stolen from vehicles, while 20 percent are go missing at social venues. Most phones were also reported lost or stolen on a Monday.

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