Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
BLACK FRIDAY DEAL: Trust the World's Fastest VPN with Your Internet Security & Freedom--A Lifetime Subscription of PureVPN at $48 with coupon code "BFRIDAY20" ×
Android Google Privacy IT Technology

Police Are Filing Warrants For Android's Vast Store Of Location Data (theverge.com) 158

The Verge is reporting about a man who robbed a Bank of America office in Romana, California. A person, named Timothy Graham, matching his profile robbed another bank in November. The investigators, however, didn't have enough evidence to prove that Graham was indeed the same person who robbed the other bank as well. The cops contacted Google and utilised a feature of Maps that builds a comprehensive history of where a user has been -- information that is proved valuable to police and advertisers alike. The publication claims that in the past few months, police have used this Maps' feature in several other instances as well. From the report: Investigators had already gone to Graham's wireless carrier, AT&T, but Google's data was more precise, potentially placing Graham inside the bank at the time the robbery was taking place. "Based on my training and experience and in consultation with other agents," an investigator wrote, "I believe it is likely that Google can provide me with GPS data, cell site information and Wi-fi access points for Graham's phone." [...] It's not clear whether either of the public warrants were filled. No Google-based evidence was presented in Graham's trial, and the other suspect plead guilty before a full case could be presented. Still, there's no evidence of a legal challenge to either warrant. There's also reason to think the investigators' legal tactic would have been successful, since Google's policy is to comply with lawful warrants for location data. While the warrants are still rare, police appear to be catching on to the powerful new tactic, which allows them to collect a wealth of information on the movements and activities of Android users, available as soon as there's probable cause to search.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Police Are Filing Warrants For Android's Vast Store Of Location Data

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now they'll know that I don't get out much.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Clear your existing history, then disable Location History for your Google account to prevent future tracking. I also disable High-Accuracy Location on my phone itself, although that's just because I don't want to send Google near-by wifi networks and cell towers, just use classic GPS.

    • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @01:37PM (#52227171) Homepage

      On the other hand, if you're more likely to be falsely accused than actually commit a crime.... You might come out ahead by outsourcing your alibi.

      • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @01:41PM (#52227203)

        Leave your own cell phone at home, and use a disposable cell phone while you are out engaging in wrong-doing. Then even if you are correctly accused of a crime, you have an alibi...

        • If it's at home, it's a pretty weak alibi.

          • I send my phone on a country-wide trip once a month or so. I'm in New Brunswick and I send it to an invalid address in British Columbia.

          • It's way better than "phone drove to the scene of the crime" alibi.

            But if you really think it's so weak, tape your phone to the underside of your neighbors car before he or she leaves for the day.

            The main problem you'd have there is that the traffic camera data would not show your car, but you could claim you were in the trunk...

          • If it's at home, it's a pretty weak alibi.

            You don't actually have the slightest clue about the judicial system, do you?

        • Leave your own cell phone at home, and use a disposable cell phone while you are out engaging in wrong-doing. Then even if you are correctly accused of a crime, you have an alibi...

          Yup, that's how you do it. Uhh, I mean, that's what I hear.

        • Leave your own cell phone at home, and use a disposable cell phone while you are out engaging in wrong-doing. Then even if you are correctly accused of a crime, you have an alibi...

          Why even bother to take a phone to an armed robbery, unless you're planning to escape via Uber?

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        When the location evidence exonerates you, the investigator can arrange to lose it or forget about it so the prosecutor does not have to turn it over as Brady evidence.

    • Yes, this will work for sure!

      I'm sure that Google doesn't keep a separate copy as they might have legal requirement to produce it. NSL and all.

      • Google states that they do not store location history at all if you've turned it off, and do delete the location history if you request. See here [google.com]. If they fail to comply with this, they could potentially open themselves up to lawsuits for failing to respect their privacy policy.
    • Aehmm... High-Accuracy-Location IS GPS.

      It's the wifi/cell tower location that is less accurate, but doesn't need to power an extra device (GPS-Receiver) in your phone.

  • Stallman was right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grumpy_old_grandpa ( 2634187 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @01:36PM (#52227163)
    Richard Stallman has always maintained that our mobile phones are tracking devices. He famously refuses to carry one.
    So in a way, this is old news. However, the police and government tracking has gotten a lot better over the years.
    • Don't forget the cooperation by Google/AT&T/Verizon/Apple/etc/etc/etc.

    • Stallman doesn't carry a phone? That's so awesome!!! It's so cool to think someone so amazing and being such a tech icon can live like it's 1899.

      I have always assumed his rats nest hair and frizzy beard were fake... does he take them off when he travels so he can move entire unrecognized?

      Dear god man... Stallman is new to the party... we've had telephone paranoia dating back to even before Kevin Mitnick. I'm almost sure there was even something related to it in Sneakers the movie.

      Please never given Stallman
  • ...because nobody ever heard of burn phones.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I do wonder how long until the belief in the unquestionable veracity of third-party data will be utilized to get rid of some political undesirables.

  • Wasn't all this data supposed to be anonymised by Google's clever algorithms to the point where it could not be connected to any one person?
  • by drnb ( 2434720 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @01:47PM (#52227271)
    Why is this a surprise to anyone? Why would a company that is at its heart a targeted advertising company that collects vast amounts of information on you, records web searches, records web sites visited, scans your emails, collects location data, photographs your home and business front and back that faces a road, etc ... not be expected to be an incredible resource to law enforcement just as they are an incredible resource to advertisers. Sure the advertisers don't get your name or IP but advertisers don't have judges available to tell the company to provide such personally identifiable info.

    Google practices a two sided market strategy. On one side they offer free services (search, email, maps, etc) to users in return for collecting info. On the other side they monetize that info through targeted advertising, delivering ads. They do not provide personally identifiable information to advertisers because that would destroy their business model, they need to be the gatekeeper between advertisers and users so they can collect their fee.

    If ever the phrase "users are the product not the customer" ever applied it applies to Google. But hey, they have a friendly motto "do no evil", and they are not a three letter government agency so its all OK right?
    • by cjjjer ( 530715 )

      First Google dropped the "do no evil" motto years ago publicly.

      Second I find ironic that scores of /. users are screaming about Windows 10 being spyware and yet happily use Google software and still believe this motto.

      • by drnb ( 2434720 )

        First Google dropped the "do no evil" motto years ago publicly.

        Any partnerships with state-owned (government) enterprises at the time? :-)

      • Google has never been the center of business like Microsft has. We HAVE to use windows for business, there is no choice. Your comparison is flat out ignorant.
      • First Google dropped the "do no evil" motto years ago publicly.

        Cite? As a Google employee, AFAIK the motto still exists and is still important. Also, it's actually "Don't be evil".

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      If they suspected him first and got a warrant, then, yeah, it's OK.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Exactly. These are Fourth Amendment warrants, not police state NSLs.

      • by drnb ( 2434720 )

        If they suspected him first and got a warrant, then, yeah, it's OK.

        Yeah, what the police are doing is fine. Proper warrant in a proper context.

        Its what Google is doing that I question, that Google has such data in the first place.

        • Have you ever gotten a notification icon that you are near some store where you have a loyalty card in Google Wallet? I have. They collect *TONS* of information, and then sell it to whomever will pay.

      • >If they suspected him first and got a warrant, then, yeah, it's OK.

        Agreed. With probable cause and a warrant, no problem. The guy "agreed" (although probably not really) to have all this tracking and information stored about him. The government, going through proper due process, can have access to it.

        But the problem is that it won't stop there. The next step is they will submit a request for a list of ALL PEOPLE who have been near the point of interest they are investigating and just start making ev

    • It's a surprise because Google Maps isn't always running on our phones.
      • by drnb ( 2434720 )

        It's a surprise because Google Maps isn't always running on our phones.

        Location services is core OS functionality, Maps is just one user of that functionality/api. Another user of that functionality is targeted advertising, how could this be at all surprising given that its from Google?

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        What is a surprise is they don't seem to realise how inaccurate it is. Google maps had me going to Singapore when I never left my home country and repeatedly visiting all sorts of places I had never come within kilometres of. Even regular routes can become rather zigzaggy by hundreds of metres, rather then following the actual path. It seems relatively accurate, maybe about 80 percent of the time and the inaccuracies can be hundreds of metres, tens of kilometres and tens of thousands of kilometres (I am re

  • If I ever get a life of crime leave phone at alibi locations

  • Warrants .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @02:02PM (#52227385)

    ... probable cause. What novel concepts in the field of law enforcement.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't rob a bank or do anything illegal. What a crazy idea right?

  • If you have (had) an Android phone, you can see where you've been on Google Timeline: https://www.google.com/maps/ti... [google.com]
  • These things work both ways. For instance, if you are planning to commit a crime, then leave your phone somewhere else, or with a friend. Voila! Now you have an alibi. "I was at such-and-such. I was with so-and-so. The location history on my phone proves it."

  • by zarmanto ( 884704 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2016 @02:24PM (#52227571) Journal

    So let's follow the rabbit a little bit further down this hole: If the police manage to set a precedent that cell phone location data can be used to establish the location of a given suspect to a particular crime, then what happens when the criminals start leaving their cell phones at home? Does that now qualify as an alibi?

    Is our legal system really ready to go that far down the hole?

    • So let's follow the rabbit a little bit further down this hole: If the police manage to set a precedent that cell phone location data can be used to establish the location of a given suspect to a particular crime, then what happens when the criminals start leaving their cell phones at home? Does that now qualify as an alibi?

      Is our legal system really ready to go that far down the hole?

      It just becomes one more data point. A witness can lie, and physical evidence can be deceiving. But a lot of good evidence can overwhelm a small piece of circumstantial evidence. The fact that the suspects cell phone places him at home, will probably have investigators look somewhere else for a period of time, but if all of the other evidence points to this being the true perpetrator of the crime, they'll still convict.

      The real rabbit hole will be when someone steals your phone, commits a crime, and then re

    • It's not PROOF of your presence. However the scenario where someone is murdered in the middle of nowhere and you can track that a person was there at the time gives a reason to pursue that person. Of course it may be a dead end, and it certainly shouldn't be enough evidence on its own, but it will provide leads when nothing else will.

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      Go one step further: Steal or clone someone's cell phone, then rob the bank in order to pin the crime on them.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      So let's follow the rabbit a little bit further down this hole: If the police manage to set a precedent that cell phone location data can be used to establish the location of a given suspect to a particular crime, then what happens when the criminals start leaving their cell phones at home? Does that now qualify as an alibi?

      No, then it means that the prosecutor can show premeditation, the criminal falsified evidence, and the criminal can be further charged with conspiracy. Either that or the investigator f

  • Go into Google Maps, click the menu bar, and then open up "Your timeline". It has a calendar display, and you can click on any date in the past year and a half (on mine, at least), and it pretty much tells you where you went, and how long you were there. It's spooky. I mean, we all knew the technology was here, but it's another thing to realize that they've actually done it. Even when you aren't navigating, even if you've disabled hi-res location services. Plus, they have a nice UI for telling you they did
    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      Go into Google Maps, click the menu bar, and then open up "Your timeline". It has a calendar display, and you can click on any date in the past year and a half (on mine, at least), and it pretty much tells you where you went, and how long you were there. It's spooky. I mean, we all knew the technology was here, but it's another thing to realize that they've actually done it. Even when you aren't navigating, even if you've disabled hi-res location services. Plus, they have a nice UI for telling you they did all this, implying that nothing's wrong with this picture.

      Gee. When I open up "Your timeline", I get an option to turn on Location History, with "Turn On" and "Learn More" buttons. There's also a "SKIP" link, that when clicked, displays a map of an nowhere close to my location, along with the legend, "No visited places".

      Not even tempted to turn on this feature.

  • The lesson here to budding robbers is to not bring your phone with you when you go to work. Seriously, I'm sure that there are enough video cameras around to capture a robber's movements. Video is one way that it was proven that Timothy McVeigh was the Oklahoma City bomber. I think there's more to this story then we're being told.
  • that makes me glad I use a dumb phone.
    • that makes me glad I use a dumb phone.

      Even a dumb phone tracks you as your phone does signal its handoffs from one cell tower to the next as you move around (even if you're not calling anyone).

      It may not be the pinpoint accuracy you'd get from google but it's easy to follow your movements down the freeway, through town, or even in less populated areas.

  • The article is talking about a feature in Google Maps, that seems to be enabled by default on some Android phones. It stores your location data. You can turn it off. You can also delete stored location data in your Google account settings.

    A much more interesting way to track people would be the Android location service itself. In order to get precise location data, all phones (including Apple, Microsoft, ...) will scan nearby wifi access points and cell towers and upload this information to the designated l

  • 1. Leave cell phone at home during crime.
    2. Profit.

    • by beh ( 4759 ) *

      Better yet - you go out and do your crime, while you have someone else in a car with tinted screens drive around to paint a big fat middle-finger on the map for the police to find...?

"Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit!" -- Looney Tunes, "What's Opera Doc?" (1957, Chuck Jones)

Working...