In pursuit of McAfee, media played crucial role

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SummaryLate last month, editor in chief of Vice magazine Rocco Castoro joined by a photographer, Robert King, managed to secure a plum exclusive: an invite to travel along with the fugitive tech millionaire John McAfee

JEFF WISE

Late last month, editor in chief of Vice magazine Rocco Castoro joined by a photographer, Robert King, managed to secure a plum exclusive: an invite to travel along with the fugitive tech millionaire John McAfee.

With reports that he was a “person of interest” in the death of a neighbour, McAfee went on the lam. Last Monday, after several days of surreptitious travel, Castoro and King posted their first ‘private’ dispatch.

The gloating was short-lived, however. Within minutes, a reader noticed that the photo posted with the story still contained GPS location data embedded by the iPhone 4S that took it, and said on Twitter: “Check the metadata in the photo. Oops ...” Vice quickly replaced the image, but it was too late.

A Wired.com article came up, including a Google Earth view of the exact spot the picture had been taken — poolside at the Hotel & Marina Nana Juana in Izabal, Guatemala.

Soon, police were with McAfee. This weekend, he is in their custody and is expected to be extradited to Belize, where he faces questioning in connection with the murder of American Gregory Faull. McAfee’s lawyers are appealing his extradition.

The Vice debacle is just one colorful twist in the relationship between the press and McAfee, always eager to bend news coverage to his often inscrutable ends.

McAfee went into hiding, but it was of a uniquely visible kind. Within 36 hours, he began an aggressive campaign to court and spin coverage of his story. He fed the media fresh details of life on the run every few hours. Davis passed along minute-by-minute updates via Twitter and daily blog posts.

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