Last year Monde Matyumza lost his phone. While walking out of a fast food restaurant in Observatory, Cape Town, he was knocked over by another pedestrian, and in the ensuing scuffle his phone went missing. Whether it was sneakily stolen by a scheming  criminal, or whether it fell out of his pocket and was lost to the world, he doesn’t know.

But now, a year later, the incident is coming back to haunt him in the strangest of ways.

Monde moved on from the loss of his phone and bought a new one a long time ago – but the old one has recently resurfaced in a series of bizarre posts to his Facebook page. While checking his status yesterday, Monde spotted a series of photos being uploaded to his wall which have been taken by its new owner.

Like many other smartphone users Monde used his phone for more than making calls. In this case he also had his phone linked up to Facebook – you know, for simple sharing of photos and videos.

And that’s exactly what his old phone’s new owner has been doing, unwittingly.

pissed

In true internet fashion, the first photo Monde saw was a selfie (above) posted from the forgotten phone. In the minutes following that first photo, more followed. The pics – posted with a “public” privacy setting – tell a story. First some photos of new wooden floors being installed, along with some fittings. Mister New Phone Owner (NPO) was either showing off his handiwork, or bragging with photos of his house-in-progress.

Handiwork, or just showing off his new hovel?
Handiwork, or just showing off his new hovel?

Then more photos came. Next, Mr NPO was at a soccer game. The African Nations Championship (CHAN) match between Zimbabwe and Morocco (Zim won the match).  After that, Mr NPO visited a village – presumably somewhere in Southern Africa (possibly Zimbabwe again), given the number plates of the cars in the photos – where lunch was had. Lunch, in this case, being a cow that was slaughtered on site. Yummy.

We’ve censored the shots of the cow slaughter below. Very much NSFW really. Unless you work in an abattoir.

We don’t, obviously, know whether or not the new phone owner stole Monde’s phone, found it or bought it in good faith. Monde has tried to contact the anonymous photographer, but with no success. We’ve also performed some cursory searches and not pinpointed the identity of the mystery man.

“Dude who are you? These pictures you’re taking of yourself are taken with my phone that was lost last year,” Monde posted on the first photo that was posted. He’s less concerned about the missing phone than he is with his privacy. How long has this stranger been able to see his posts and even interact with his friends?

“I don’t want this phone back, just for you to delete my account. If you don’t I will have to go to the police.”

Some more photos from Monde’s unexpected Facebook visitor, below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unfriending your phone

The moral of the story, though, is not “don’t lose your phone”. That’s impractical and not very helpful at all. Instead, it would be to acquaint yourself with the way modern privacy settings work. And the features on modern phones.

Both Twitter and Facebook – the most widely used social networks on smartphones – use token authentication. That is, the apps on the phones will log in once, and from thereon use a token to verify that they’re allowed to access information on the user’s behalf. This cuts down on users having to enter usernames and passwords, and adds security that was designed for a case like Monde’s: instead of needing to change your password to force the old device to log out, you simply revoke its token, which removes its permissions to access your Facebook or Twitter feed.

apps

On Facebook, this can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications. Twitter’s app permissions can be found here: https://twitter.com/settings/applications.

Also, in this specific case, which involves a Windows Phone devices, it’s just likely that the phone was set up to automatically sync photos to Facebook. The clueless new owner may have finally, after a year, stumbled onto some free Wi-Fi access and the phone automatically sent his exploits into the cloud. And onto the Facebook wall of Monde Matyumza, who is now very ticked off.

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.