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Other-LiveIamA the youngest registered sex offender in my county AMA!

Dec 21st 2016 by TheVykin • 12 Questions • 1037 Points

My short bio: Hey Reddit! My name is Anthony van der Meer and I am the 23 years old director of Find my Phone. After the film went viral on Youtube, I saw a lot of questions. So now I am here to answer them. Feel free to ask about the legal, technical, ethical or cinematic aspects of the film.

Film Trailer Please excuse my English, I am not a native speaker/writer.

My Proof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpN9NzO4Mo8&t

http://imgur.com/XNnt7yV

Q:

I think most people would agree that your life shouldn't have taken such an huge hit from one mistake like that.

How would you suggest the system be reformed so that if anyone was in the position you were in, they don't end up in the position you are now?

P.S Good luck with everything.

A:

Will you do a second movie if the phone goes back online again?


Q:

Personally, I think that if somebody doesn't disclose their age then the legal system should lessen or deviate the punishment entirely on the projected offenders part. Especially if the sex was consensual.

Appreciate the luck. Thanks!

A:

Yes, check the last 15 seconds of the film ;)


Q:

I understand that criminal records like these often times encourage people to give up on leading a regular life and return to criminal activity. Does this ever cross your mind?

A:

When? We need Find My Phone: Roamin' in Romania ASAP.


Q:

Yes, it does. In my honest opinion, just from some of the people that I have met and how I have been treated by law enforcement recently, I think that people with a prior history are more likely to get caught for the criminal activities that many people with no prior history typically get away with. For example, you might get off with a warning for speeding but I will never get off with a warning again.

Personally, I do not think I would return to criminal activity because prison is a not a fun place and I do not want to return there.

A:

Love the title. It's hard to tell. I will focus the sequel on the complete life cycle of the phone.

A prequel about where my iPhone ended up will probably be released before that. I am in the pre-production of that film now and I am planning on releasing it next year. It all depends on the developments of the story


Q:

How was jail for a sex offefnder?

A:

Hey Anthony

I thought your video was really interesting and I like the way you edited it. I have a couple of questions I hope that's alright.

First what made you curious about making a film about your phone being stolen?

Secondly what sort of ethical considerations did you do before, doing and after shooting your shortfilm?

Cheers from Denmark!


Q:

Horrible. Most of the people in jail and prison are very narrow minded and have strict views about everything in life. Their opinion is that all sex offenders are horrible people.

A:

Hey! Thank you!

There were a couple of things that made me curious about the story of a stolen phone. Let me summerize it for you.

  1. My iPhone got stolen by a thief who did it in such a way, I am almost certain she was a trained professional thief. Since she would probably never use the phone herself, it made me wonder. What would happen with the phone after the theft? Where would it eventually end up?

  2. Whe tried to track the thief through find my iPhone. We could only follow the phone for a few minutes. By the time we and the police were close to the phone, it went offline. Although this sucked, chasing the thief was actually pretty exciting.

  3. I had a lot of personal information on the iPhone. When I lost it, I suddenly realized how much we all depend on our smartphones. It isn't just a device we only communicate with. It's far more intimated than that. I think it is one of the most intimated devices a person can use (we take it everywhere we go, communicate with our loved ones and affairs with it, make (nude)pictures etc.) Having aces to all that information could tell a lot about a person, even the things he or she would never share with other people. That kind of creeps me out. By making the film I wanted to create awareness of that. Imagine you getting hacked!

About the ethical considerations:

Before:

I had a couple of rules I followed. For instance, I did not want the phone to be found. It had to be clearly stolen. Also, if the thief sold the phone immediately, I would follow the location of the phone and collect some metadata to find out where it would end up. If it was just sold in the Netherlands again, I would deactivate the app and start over with a new phone.

During:

I wanted to follow the phone until I had enough information to make a story. Alltough I collected data everyday, I did it only once or maybe twice a day, at different times each day. I would stop collecting data after a few weeks and than collect weekly and eventually monthly if necessary. This has to do with proportionality. But after two weeks, the phone went offline.

After:

I made sure to anonymize the man. Not only did I blur his face, all the phone numbers you see in the film mis at least 2 digits and I have shuffled the numbers a bit. Even the house in the end doesn't have a number. I think a lot of people didn't notice this. This was of course intentionally. I always hate it when tv shows blurr and make it extremely ugly and messy.


Q:

Was there much physical violence towards you? Were you segregated to your cell?

A:

Why not confront him? Also, how do you feel about the responses regarding the nationality of the thief and ongoing refugee discussion?


Q:

There was some violence. Mostly verbal. I was not segregated, but I was around other people who had similar crimes. They were all much older than me.

A:

It was never my intention to confront the guy because I was investigating where stolen phones end up. I was hoping the phone would turn up somewhere else, which it did 7 months later. Even though the story of this guy stops at the end, the story about the phone still continuous on.

I think the reactions regarding the nationality, where people blame his behaviour on it are terrible. It is a fact the guy was a Egyptian. In the film I wanted to tell a story about the human side of the thief, and religion and ethnicity are a big part of somebodies identity. That's the only reason I mentioned it.

But the thief could have been anyone. It's just coincidence. It also doesn't say anything about the country he is from. There are always idiots who will blame bad behaviour on ethnicity. Fortunately the big majority just sees a man as a man and not as race or colour.

The opposite reactions were people claim I made the film to spread hate and Islamophobia are just as bad and actually are quite racist as well. Just because I am a western white guy doesn't mean I hate Arabic people.

But it's typical for the time we are living in.


Q:

I'm assuming you took a plea bargain. Why didn't you take it to trial?

A:

I really enjoyed watching your film, it was beautifully made. So here's my question:

Most of my projects will involve privacy, hacking and cybercrime

What got you into these topics, was it from a young age or a recent thing?


Q:

I hired an attorney when the situation first came around but I had already told my side of the story to the local authorities. He recommended that I take the plea bargain because I technically already admitted to committing the crime. He told me that I would have had a very good chance of losing the trial and facing up to 18 months in prison and a lifetime registration.

A:

I started to get interested in these topics when I was around the age of 19. I always liked technology but was never really thinking about the negative consequences have. I was and am very interested in Wiki leaks and the Snowden revelations. Snowden really kickstarted my interest in the subjects. When I did research for the film I really dived into the material as well. I now am politicly active on these subjects by giving speeches and workshops, soon even for politicians to help defend our privacy rights.


Q:

I'm genuinely curious what it feels like to have your whole life ruined over a mistake I could see a lot of people making. How did you initially react? How did you cope? What do you hope for your future?

A:

Could you expand on the legal aspects? Is what you did legal?

Great film by the way, next time I hope you'll manage to work with a smartphone producers company to install a hidden sim inside the phone so you have full control, and somehow fake the "powered off" status of the phone itself.


Q:

It feels devastating. Imagine your entire emotional state goes into shock and stays there. Darkness covers your brain and makes you feel completely numb. I still haven't figure out a way to get out of this feeling nor necessarily cope. I still have moments where I want to end my life. I want to stay positive and hope that the future has something in store for me, but as of the end of 2016, nothing is looking very positive.

EDIT: Here is an accurate representation of my life right now

A:

I was operating in a grey area. It basically comes down to this: Spying or hacking someone is illegal.

But technically I was doing it with my own device. As an artist and journalist I had a have a some more rights.

There are a few important things I had to take in account. - proportionality; I couldn't just spy as much as I wanted but only collected the necessary data I needed for the film. This is also why in the sequel I will focus on less privacy sensitive data. - social importance: The reason I made the film and came up with the concept. - maximizing the impact while minimizing the negative consequences: I got a lot of media coverage, in every interview I explain my motives. On the other side I censored the data of the guy.

The most important thing is the motive. I did this project to start a discussion about privacy on smartphones and make people aware of the issue. I believe the film is a very effective way to really show what kind of data you can collect and what the consequences of it can be.

Even though not everyone gets the point at first, people now subconsciously realize that getting your smartphone hacked is possible, easy and the amount of data you can collect is enormous. I hope all people who see the film will realize the risk of getting hacked on smartphones, by hackers and governments. On computers, most people use virus scans, install updates and some people even put tape on their webcams while almost nobody even considers how vulnerable a smartphone is, and what the implications of getting hacked mean.

I think the film already created a lot of awareness and started discussions about it. I don't want to encourage anyone to redo this experiment because the film already made the point. I didn't make the film for entertainment. Hacking of phones is a big business and there are plenty recent examples of phones getting hacked. During my research I came across a lot of malware for smartphones that was sold pretty cheap. The problem is already there, unfortunately people are not as aware as they should.

That doesn't guarantee I won't get thrown in jail, but I did the best I could to prevent it while still be able to publish the film


Q:

This sucks, I'm sorry you're put in this position. Are you permanently on the sex offender registry or is it for x amount of time?

A:

how did you get all the resources needed for the video? was it hard? how long dit it all took you?


Q:

I am currently on the registration for 25 years. I have to re-register current information about myself and my living arrangements biannually. If I make a mistake in registration at any time, I would be facing a matching low grade felony for Failure to Register and face up to 18 months in prison.

A:

I took me about a year of technical research before making the film and a year after making about the legal consequences the film might have.

As a student I didn't have a big budget. I paid for the film myself, so from paying the composer of the music to buying the phone and testing different spyware.


Q:

[deleted]

A:

Excellent job, this was really intriguing. That ending definitely left me wanting more too, damn it!

After seeing your shortfilm gain so many views so quickly, do you think there is any chance, realistically speaking, that the thief will see it? How would that make you feel?


Q:

Thanks! Much appreciation.

The friends that I have told about the situation do not see me differently, to my knowledge. They agree that the punishment was too harsh and they hate that I am going through the situation that I am going through. My mother is the same way, but my mother is my mother and will always love me no matter what happens.

A:

Thank you! I just answered this question so: There is a big chance the man has seen the film. Maybe it's naive but I hope it will be an eye-opener for him to change his life around in a positive way. He already got rid of the phone after two weeks so that won't be a problem.

And if I do get killed, a few million people know who probably has done it ;)


Q:

You seem like a pretty good guy that got served some crappy cards....have you considered opening your own side business? The reason I say this is because after 2 layoffs in 5 years (no criminal) I used my anger to put food on the table. Do you find it hard to stay motivated despite your circumstances?

A:

Cool film.

My questions: Why did you freak out when the guy opened the door at the end ? What were you planning on doing in the first place ?


Q:

I appreciate that. I have thought about opening a web agency, however I lack the funding for this and the knowledge on expanding a marketing horizon. This is something that I was interested in before everything happened.

I find it extremely hard to stay motivated every day. Honestly, most days I want to die.

A:

It was never my intention to confront the guy because I was investigating where stolen phones end up. I was hoping the phone would turn up somewhere else, which it did 7 months later. Even though the story of this guy stops at the end, the story about the phone still continuous on.

I went to all the places that were important to the story to take some footage I never used besides that last scene. I thought I could might catch a glimpse of the guy to see if he was still in the Netherlands. If he wasn't I would explain why It didn't have internet connection. I was all by myself and was holding a mono pod. If I had the intention to confront him, I wouldn't have gone alone.


Q:

Is it hard to get a job and do anything after you got titled a sex offender?

A:

Geweldige film en prachtig in beeld gebracht! Had voor mij nog langer mogen duren!

Questions: 1. Considering the popularity of the film, aren't you afraid there is a big chance the thief has seen it and as a result will throw his phone away? (Making the possibility of a sequel even smaller)

...Or did you already collect some footage you didn't tell us about? ;)

  1. Will you try to confront him if you think the phone will never go online again?

Groetjes uit NL!


Q:

Absolutely. I have been denied jobs that wanted to hire me on the spot just because of a simple background check. It's very disappointing to interview for one of your dream jobs, get an official offer letter, and then have that offered retracted almost immediately without even being able to explain your situation to somebody.

A:

Thanks man!

  1. There is a big chance the man has seen the film. Maybe it's naive but I hope it will be an eye-opener for him to change his life around in a positive way. He already got rid of the phone after two weeks so that won't be a problem.
  2. Check the last 15 seconds of the film ;)

Q:

Jesus Christ. Do you have any plans for putting things back together? I know how hard it is for felons to improve their life after prison because of how many obstacles are put in there way, where do you want to go from here?

I feel sad hearing your story. While I'm upset you slept with a minor I believe you when you say you didn't know. Really this whole situation is fucked up but I think you can find a way to get back on top of things.

A:

Let's say some big movie company is interesting in buying the credits of your short film and make it bigger. Will you be interest it in selling it?


Q:

As of right now, I don't have any plans. I'm just trying to live every day within itself. I want to go to college and become a psychologist or a counselor of some sorts to help people deal with and resolve traumatic experiences in their life. However, my opportunities are very limited because of my criminal record. Originally, I wanted to be a part of the Highway State Patrol. That is now completely out of the question.

I have skills as a front-end web developer, as well. However, the job field is very limited right now in my local area. I also have skills involving direct sales but my opportunities there are also limited because of my criminal history.

I don't know where to go from here. Some days, I feel hopeless. Other days, I feel an overwhelming measure of hope.

A:

I am not sure if I understand the question correctly. I don't think there was enough material to make the film longer.

If you mean the concept, I would refer to my previous answer. This was not a project for pure entertainment. So it really depends on what the motives of the movie company would be and who's in control of the project.


Q:

Did you use encryption on your stolen iPhone? Did you use a sophisticated screen locking feature on the iPhone? (ie. fingerprint-based, password, long pin [5 digits or more]) Or did you use a slide-to-unlock or a simple draw-a-pattern-unlock?

I understand that the decoy Android phone was unencrypted and unlocked (screen) on purpose.

A:

My iPhone got stolen in January 2014. It was an iPhone 5 and had a simple lock screen (code). As you may know there were a lot of lockscreen bypasses for the older iOS versions and even the newest was recently patched because of a glitch that allowed going through the contacts and photo's whole the iPhone was still locked.

But for me that wasn't even relevant as the phone was unlocked because I was making notes when it was stolen.