The way that iOS devices stay can stay linked even when they change hands can lead to a lot of weirdness.

A number of months back, I was mugged and my iPhone was stolen. I changed my passwords, dissociated it from my Apple account, and and got a new iPhone. Then, a couple of months later, I started getting another person’s pictures in my photostream. I have no idea why this is happening: the phone should be completely divorced from my account. I never updated iOS on that phone and it did not have photostream on it; my best guess is that when the phone got updated and needed to set up a photostream, it looked for the last account that it had been tied to.

The pictures are voyeuristically amazing. As far as I can tell, my stolen phone is in Yemen now, owned by a young man who takes a lot of selfies with a wad of qat tucked into his cheek. He either helps work on a qat field or just visits one from time to time. He takes a lot of pictures of his family: an older man sleeping on the couch, children in ceremonial garb playing in rubble. But most of the images are screenshots of Facebook. Sometimes these are of messages that are in a language I can’t read, but they are usually of images that his friends have posted. A lot of the pictures are of bales of money, bales of drugs, solid gold machine guns, jeeps and tanks, racist caricatures of Obama, and propagandish pictures of Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, amidst these are plenty of pictures of unicorns, flowers, and cute little kittens lying under rainbows. It’s a bizarre look into a world that is entirely unlike my own.

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