The “Maps” application found on virtually all mobile phones has more than one use especially for law enforcement. Recently, more warrants have been issued by law enforcement to collect information about the movements and activities of Android users. By utilizing this strategy, law enforcement are able to chronicle the whereabouts of suspects in their private, data form.
This capability is easier for Android phones than IOS and iPhones because IOS and iPhones do not capture the information to a specific user. The data is collected from Google’s Location history system, which uses the phone’s location data to show where the user has traveled. This information can be edited or viewed in the “Timeline” tab of Google Maps. Each time the phone establishes a strong connection with cell-phone towers, the history system marks this location in the user’s Timeline tab. Although this history system is private, Google can use this data to target advertisements and law enforcement can access this data via warrant requests.
Even when users are aware, there are few ways to opt out of this location tracker. Users can rename or delete specific data points from within the “Maps” application; however, this data can be requested for preservation by law enforcement. Another option is to be taken out of the system completely by turning off Location History. Nevertheless, this would also disable settings such as Google Now and the Explore Function in “Maps.”
As a result, more officers are taking advantage of this technological advancement. Police departments throughout the nation promote this tactic and are instructing officers on how to properly obtain this data.
Although this is a victory for law enforcement, the public now has another concern for their privacy. Different courts have ruled differently on the collection of historical location data but this seems to go against the privacy of users based on the Fourth Amendment. The higher courts need to determine if this is constitutional or not. Nicole Rhim
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