Finding photos by car license plate numbers in Facebook

3 min readDec 30, 2020


Specialists from the Molfar research company found an interesting feature in Facebook: if you enter part of a car license plate in the search bar, you’ll find photos of cars with license plates containing the letters and numbers you’re looking for.

So by entering ‘bmt216a’, we find archive photos of the Aston Martin DB5 from James Bond movies. The search results are filtered by location and posting date:

Aston Martin DB5 pictures in Facebook search

This is how Kernes’ escort cars are parked. The photo, published on September 14, 2020, was found using license plate number AX0202. The car is parked near the 17th Kharkiv City Hospital, which accepts patients with bilateral virus pneumonia. On September 15, the City Council speaker confirmed that the mayor of Kharkiv had COVID-19 and bilateral pneumonia.

Kernes’ escort car is parked near the 17th Kharkiv City Hospital

Part of the XKX77 series license plates belonged to the FSB, and some were sold to private individuals. Rumor has it that traffic police officers didn’t pay any attention to these special plates. A search on Facebook showed that the series is still available for sale:

XKX77 series license plates belonged to the FSB

Why search for photos by car license plate numbers?

To figure out who parked in “your” spot or to find out where the president’s motorcade went. Collectors will be able to verify your creditworthiness, determining based on a photo that, in addition to the car, you have money to travel to Zanzibar. Criminals will get a history of movements even though Facebook removes geotags. The exact location is determined by the objects in the photo and comments on the post. For example, if a photo shows a gas station brand, you can find satellite and panoramic images of all the gas stations in the specific region in Google Maps.

How does the search by car license plate numbers work?

In 2018, Facebook created the machine learning system Rosetta, which extracts text from a billion public Facebook and Instagram images and video frames, daily and in real time. Rosetta makes photo search more relevant and enhances News Feed personalization algorithms. In addition to Rosetta, Facebook uses technology to identify the objects in the images. So, upon the request “carbon fiber wrapped car”, Facebook will search for the cars wrapped in carbon fiber, even if it’s not mentioned in the photo description. So, if the search by license plate number does not provide relevant results or there’s way too many of them, you can use keywords to find the image of a car.

Artem Starosiek is the CEO of the Molfar, an OSINT research and consulting company. Follow Molfar on Twitter if you want to learn more about OSINT tools and techniques used for corporate security and business risk intelligence.




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