Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Police Are Now Filing Warrants for Android’s Stored Location Data

Russell Brandom of the Verge:

In an affidavit filed on February 8th, nearly a year after the initial robbery, the FBI requested location data pulled from Graham’s Samsung Galaxy S5. 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.

Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, is there a reason you’d like any company to have your full location history?

iOS also tracks and stores location data — you may have learned this from panicked Facebook posts from people who, understandably, did not read the Location Services confirmation screen they agreed to when setting up their iPhone. However, the location data stored by iOS seems to be limited to the past thirty days, does not appear to be sent to Apple, and only retains frequently-visited locations. However, Apple doesn’t confirm any of this in their iOS security white paper (PDF). Clarification from both Apple and Google would be helpful.