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Police Increasingly Looking To Smartphones For Evidence

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the big-brother-fits-in-your-pocket dept.

Crime 225

Barence writes "Your smartphone could place you at the scene of a crime, destroy an alibi or maybe even provide one – which is why one of the first things police now do at the scene of a crime is take away a suspect's cellphone. This look into smartphone forensics reveals how even wiping incriminating data from iPhones isn't enough to get criminals off the hook. 'If you're looking at your email messages and you rotate the phone, there's a snapshot of that message,' said Phil Ridley, a mobile phone analyst with CCL-Forensics. And what people leave on their phones is horrific. 'We were contacted by police who couldn't get a video to work on a handset – it turned out to be a bloke beheading someone in his garage,' claimed another forensics expert."

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225 comments

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Location proves nothing (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786200)

it shows your phone was at the scene, it doesn't prove YOU were.

Re:Location proves nothing (2)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786208)

in communist belgium, guilty is what you are until proven otherwise ...

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786500)

I don't think that's a Belgium-specific thing, unfortunately; in the U.S. as well, if cell phone records place your cell-phone at the scene of the crime, then you face an uphill battle trying to argue that you weren't there.

Re:Location proves nothing (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36787388)

You can ask about 15 teenagers arrested for criminal trespass at a local park about this where I live. A couple months ago, the city DA got location records from the cell providers, found location logs of people's cells who were at a park after dusk, then did a mass arrest sweep.

Just the fact their phones were in the park after dusk was good enough for a jury to convict and give them 3-6 months in jail each.

Re:Location proves nothing (2)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786212)

Ah but if the phone is taken from the suspect, it would seem likely. Smartphones are fairly expensive in terms of both money and investment in a phone contract, so people tend to not leave them laying around I would think.

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786366)

you can just use the Alberto Gonzales defense. "It is my phone, but I don't know why it was there". and for any other questions "I don't remember"

'beyond a reasonable doubt' to 'likely' in 236 yrs (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786416)

congratulations America, television has finally turned your collective brains into 300 million bowls of porridge.

Re:'beyond a reasonable doubt' to 'likely' in 236 (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786430)

congratulations America, television has finally turned your collective brains into 300 million bowls of porridge.

You're a little late ...

Re:'beyond a reasonable doubt' to 'likely' in 236 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786976)

I was going to say something that only I myself thinks is witty. But, "Ouch! My balls!" is coming on!

Re:'beyond a reasonable doubt' to 'likely' in 236 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36787034)

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" and "Likely" say the same thing but from different perspectives. "Likely" means that there are no "REASONABLE doubts" that you weren't there. If there are "REASONABLE doubts" that you were there it is "unLIKELY" you were there.

Re:Location proves nothing (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786568)

No, but I'd gladly attach it to my dog when I plan to commit a crime.

Re:Location proves nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36787144)

No, you are too stupid

Re:Location proves nothing (3, Insightful)

etymxris (121288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786306)

Just like having an unsecured wifi network doesn't prove that YOU sent that threat to the president. Except juries don't find that very convincing. And even where it is true that someone is committing crimes through your wifi network, such as in a recent case, you still get to have all your computers seized and combed through. If you actually had been doing something illegal, even if it wasn't what the search warrant was for, you'd still be prosecuted. Because the police had reasonable cause to search your possessions.

Re:Location proves nothing (2)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786922)

Just like having an unsecured wifi network doesn't prove that YOU sent that threat to the president. Except juries don't find that very convincing. And even where it is true that someone is committing crimes through your wifi network, such as in a recent case, you still get to have all your computers seized and combed through. If you actually had been doing something illegal, even if it wasn't what the search warrant was for, you'd still be prosecuted. Because the police had reasonable cause to search your possessions.

Uh, that isn't exactly true. It depends on what they were looking for, what they found and where they found it.

Let's say your computer gets examined because the little boy next door says you showed him some nasty videos of other little boys. So they dig around in your computer and find not videos of little boys but videos of little girls. Not in an Internet Explorer cache folder but in a folder named Suzy. Yup, I think you are going down for it.

However, in the course of a full examination of the computer they find a file with 10,000 credit card numbers and the folder is buried seven levels down through hidden folders and such that nobody without a forensic tool would ever find it is probably meaningless. Not only would this be evidence of a completely different crime but it wasn't something that was in "plain sight" and was certainly clearly outside of the search warrant. Now if the file with 10,000 credit card numbers was on the desktop with a name like StolenCreditCards.txt that would be a different story entirely.

This comes up all the time and for the most part it is addressed through on-site previewing of the computers today. If they don't find anything obvious they aren't even going to collect the computers because of the backlog in the computer forensic lab. The lab folks are just going to make a report to the prosecutor anyway and the prosecutor is the one that got the warrant in the first place. They know the limits of what they can do based on the original search warrant. That doesn't mean you are going to get away with it because whatever is found can then be used to justify further investigation, but not as evidence at trial.

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786328)

Just because someone saw someone who looked a lot like you, doesn't mean it's you.

But it does show that you were likely there, which is often enough to convict when coupled with other evidence, none of which would have enough enough on its own.

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786498)

Of cousre it could be a piece of evidence to be included with others, I'm just saying that your phone being somewhere alone it doesn't prove a thing. it might imply, but its not *proof*.

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786824)

If I got a euro for every time someone who really thought that got convicted by a jury OF THEIR PEERS, I'd be a very rich man.

Remember, it doesn't have to be absolute proof. It doesn't even have to be proof that will satisfy legal professionals. You're judged by a jury OF YOUR PEERS. People who can be very stupid, and very easily led by both prosecution and defense attorneys.

Re:Location proves nothing (3, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786864)

Neither does DNA. DNA proves that your DNA was at the scene, not you, but try convincing an ignorant judge and jury of this...
Think about this next time you toss a disposable coffee cup into the trash, or scratch your head in public... Is there someone in that room with you that matches your basic physical description?

Might I not be collecting your DNA, and/or your wireless signatures (via my laptop -- Hint: GSM & CDMA are cracked) so that I can place you at the scene of my next crime?

Sure: "What are the chances -- Tinfoil hat!"
That's EXACTLY how I want you to think, and how much of the public does think -- Surely no-one would exploit this fact...

Let's just hope all criminals are just dumb, and won't think to commit a crime when they know you won't have an alibi, and that when the cops "like you" as a prime suspect due to DNA and digital evidence that they take several other suspects to court as well-- Wait, what's that you say? They only try ONE person via trial? Oh, that's right, because if they prosecuted several at once, and the courts found TWO suspects guilty of the same crime... It would totally undermine the public's faith in the justice system!

Bwa-Ha-HAHAHA... Hahahaha... Oh, oh--damn, Haha-ha--- ha, heh, heh, HAHAHA!

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787350)

Occam's razor.

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787230)

It is circumstantial evidence to be sure, but a sufficient amount of circumstantial evidence can build a case or can provide a level of verification to stronger evidence. Generally the cops don't pick up one piece of incriminating evidence, say "Whew, glad that's over" and go home. Let's imagine a completely contrived scenario where a man is caught on tape robbing a bank. He claims it was his brother, who does look a lot like him. If his phone were at the bank at the time of the robbery, his brother's fingerprints weren't on the device, and an e-mail with personal information was sent very shortly after the robbery, it certainly helps the DA build a case.

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787242)

it shows your phone was at the scene, it doesn't prove YOU were.

It is one piece of the puzzle.

If you were on the phone at 10:00 and 11:00 and the crime was commited between 10:15 and 10:45, you have a problem.

Even if you cannot be fenced in quite that tightly your location can probably be fixed closely enough to interest a jury. Remeber that a jury only has to be persuaded of your guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Based on the weight of the evidence when seen and considered as a whole.

Re:Location proves nothing (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787392)

Don't know about you but my location and my cell phone's location are closely correlated. So unless you can offer an explanation that creates a reasonable doubt that that wasn't the case (e.g. I reported it stolen) it's a pretty good assumption.

Simple... (1)

bfmorgan (839462) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786210)

Don't take your phone to a crime.

Re:Simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786408)

That's exactly what some mule friends of mine say...

Re:Simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786452)

We should not be worried about the police catching more criminals. The guilty should be caught and punished.

When it comes to police actions, the same cautions apply as with all police actions of force:
a- Personal integrity may be more important than catching criminals for minor offences (compare - jaywalking and file sharing doesn't justify lethal force)
b- Police may be corrupted and may misuse information (not as rare as it should be)
c- False accusations may be harder to disprove with information disadvantage
d- Police may misinterpret complex data
e- Police resources going into looking at smartphones could have been put to better use elsewhere

I'm sure there are other reasons too. However, that the bad guys gets caught isn't one of them.

Re:Simple... (1)

Bobakitoo (1814374) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786576)

In fact, leave your phone at home and use that as evidence that you where not on the crime scene. It surly work both way... i think.

Re:Simple... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786672)

Exactly.

Re:Simple... (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786796)

ah you'd think so but you'd be wrong. Evidence such as your phone being at home or some place else seems to be viewed with suspicion. That how ever doesn't apply to evidence that places your phone at the scene of a crime.

Re:Simple... (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787418)

Because it is reasonable to assume someone intelligent committing a crime would leave the phone at home while it is much less likely that someone would take your phone surrupticiously and commit a crime while carrying it all before you have a chance to report it missing. The two situation aren't exactly comparable.

Turn off the fucking phone. (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786216)

If you are planning on committing a crime remove the battery from your phone. This goes for non-smartphones as well. Use a prepay for crime planning and ditch it as frequently as possible.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (3, Insightful)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786238)

Or just leave it at home. Record saying that your phone was turned off before crime and turned on after, is worse than a record saying that your phone was all evening near your tv....

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786276)

The battery in your phone has never died?
No need to shut it down, just yank the battery.

Leaving at home seems good too. Maybe even get someone to use it.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

DarthBart (640519) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786368)

I have an iPhone, you insensitive clod! I can't just "remove the battery"!.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786450)

I have an iPhone, you insensitive clod! I can't just "remove the battery"!.

iPhone users aren't criminals. You'll want to get an Android phone to slum around with your wicked friends.

Steve

Sent from your iPhone

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786678)

no they are rape victims

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (0)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786682)

Actually, iPhone users are just plain dumb, so removing a battery is a difficult concept. My guess is that many a crock who has a smart phone owns an iPhone.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (0)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786398)

Low power != no battery. You don't think a phone logs when batteries are inserted and removed?

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786636)

Bit hard to write to a log when you've no power, no?

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36787168)

Capacitor.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787170)

no different then noticing a filesystem has been unmounted uncleanly. Think for a sec, AC.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786866)

"You don't think a phone logs when batteries are inserted and removed?"

I know for a fact that phones do not log when batteries are inserted and removed, unless the phone was designed by Chris Angel, in which case all bets are off of course.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

CrazyDuke (529195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787096)

No, but when your phone suddenly drops from the view of 3 cell towers at the same time. Well, either you went into a bank vault and closed the door, or... Which phones are in the view of which towers is logged from what I have seen.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787160)

what? why not? the phone can write a status when it gets to 5%. if that status is not set, guess what, you yanked the battery! This is no different or harder then journaling or noticing a filesystem is unmounted uncleanly! Do you know for a fact because you have tested every phone on the planet?

Think before you type, maybe? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787472)

I hope you don't get paid to do engineering, because your design has more holes in it than swiss cheese. (Hint: A battery can be at any power level when yanked and/or inserted, and paying attention to battery level can in no way help solve this engineering dilemma)

If I am an application, and I am running along, and then all of a sudden I don't exist anymore, why? Maybe the battery was unplugged. Maybe the phone I was running on just took an EMI blast. Maybe the OS hung. I don't know, especially since I no longer exist.

You would need special hardware at the very least, that was still powered for a period of time after the battery was removed to log the removal. That costs money. Even an entry level engineer knows that they aren't throwing in special hardware they don't need to solve a problem that doesn't actually present a problem.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786278)

Yeah, most career criminals do this I believe. At least the smarter ones do.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786482)

Or just watch The Wire.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786582)

No. Better. Make sure your phone keeps running around somewhere far, far away from the scene of crime. "Forget" it in a friend's car for the time being, attach it to your dog or if there's no better option, leave it at home, turned on and running.

Evidence works both ways.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (3, Interesting)

anagama (611277) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786780)

In addition to leaving it at home, write an app that will make a text or two to your most frequently texted contacts and also perform a few innocuous internet searches. Automated outgoing phone calls might be more difficult because of the need for natural conversation. This way, not only is the phone on, you are actively using it, or so it seems. Problem is keeping the app hidden well enough that it won't be found on the phone.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786882)

"Problem is keeping the app hidden well enough that it won't be found on the phone."

Where is the problem? Just have the app delete itself at a specified time.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786886)

What need for conversation? Just make sure that the other side won't be there. Call a shop or two that you know is closed, have the phone listen to their recording for a few seconds and hang up.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787190)

I'd give my phone to a friend I planned on claiming an alibi with.

Re:Turn off the fucking phone. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787396)

If you are planning on committing a crime remove the battery from your phone. This goes for non-smartphones as well. Use a prepay for crime planning and ditch it as frequently as possible.

This assumes you --- and those you call --- are not under suspicion or surveillance for any other reason.

It can be very difficult to keep things plausible.

Small mistakes stand out:

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time." Holmes: "That was the curious incident." ...

The video was Flash (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786228)

The subject couldn't watch it either.

Re:The video was Flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786304)

"My beheading videos are none of your damn business -- unless you're in it, of course." - The Queen of Hearts

Constitution in trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786230)

How this ended up not under the 4th amendment is utter bullshit, you couldn't give me a smart phone.

Re:Constitution in trouble (3, Insightful)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786252)

Don't commit crimes and you'll be OK.

Re:Constitution in trouble (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786504)

haha, what a hoot, since we now allow the government to unilaterally declare someone a criminal, and then harm and/or incarcerate and/or kill them without trial and without warrant.

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786596)

So I'm guilty until proven innocent? Who said I committed a crime? If they only took cells from people who have been verified as criminals then yes, no problem about that. But ... that would make the whole point kinda moot, don't you think?

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786618)

Who the fuck cares? The police can look over every inch of my phone. I'm not so far up my ass to have a problem with that.

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

cob666 (656740) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786692)

So you're OK with the police confiscating your phone for days or even weeks? How is this not covered under the 4th or 5th amendment?

Re:Constitution in trouble (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786832)

Know what? The police could come into my home and squat here for as long as they like. They can have a key, if it wasn't asking too much I'd like to close the door when I'm taking a dump but if they really wanna watch me when I'm on the can, hey, to everyone what they really enjoy. But I wouldn't want them in my phone or computer, though.

People define privacy, and which parts thereof are important to them, differently. I don't consider the place I park my cadaver in this important and sacred, but I can understand why other people might see it that way, so I guess I should be supportive since I, too, have places and things I hold dear that belong to my most private space.

Re:Constitution in trouble (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786958)

The only private space left is the one in your head. If I cant remember something important it just doesnt get stored. If you REALLY worry about privacy, keep it all in your head.

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787188)

and that's not going to last too long.. MRI's and pictures show what you remember and don't, yada yada /just being real //and scary

Re:Constitution in trouble (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786898)

"Who the fuck cares?"

Mostly people who passed elementary school civics.

Re:Constitution in trouble (2)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786744)

So I'm guilty until proven innocent?

Yes. Hadn't you noticed?

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786840)

Guess I didn't get the memo. But I'm still catching up reading, so far I'm somewhere in the late 90s.

Damn spam...

Re:Constitution in trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36787324)

So I'm guilty until proven innocent?

If you are a man, and a woman would like to claim you raped her: YES.
Look at the IMF boss, or Julian Assange.
There is no need for smart phone evidence. The woman said the man was guilty. Kill the rapist. Burn the witch.

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786686)

I so wish that would be true.

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

etymxris (121288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786266)

It's a British website. I would assume it's talking about British police. Though I doubt here in the US we fare much better.

Re:Constitution in trouble (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786288)

If you think that smartphones (and their seizure by police) present the gravest danger to the Constitution, you haven't been paying attention since Reagan was elected.

"bloke beheading someone in his garage" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786270)

Are you sure it wasn't a video of Highlander? Were there lightning and explosions when the guy was decapitated?

Re:"bloke beheading someone in his garage" (1)

muckracer (1204794) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786290)

> Are you sure it wasn't a video of Highlander? Were there
> lightning and explosions when the guy was decapitated?

I don't care. I just wanna get my phone back!

...Bloke? (1)

Chardansearavitriol (1946886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786298)

what an oddly friendly term to be stuck right before decapitation.

Re:...Bloke? (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787194)

they need to say things like that or they'll go crazy. Those professions can be a little twisted. I mean, sometimes it's all corruptions and removal of basic freedoms and conspiracies.. and sometimes you are dealing with plain sick fucks.

Police are faget (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786310)

I got your smartphone right here hahaha

(I mean my penis)

hahaha

fagets

Well duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786372)

I know this is about the USA, but how about just, you know, not commit a crime?

Re:Well duh... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786528)

How very quaint, you must be old and thinking about that obsolete trial, warrant, probable cause nonsense. That's all out the window now, citizen. This is the New America, where the government can declare you a criminal or enemy or terrorist.

Re:Well duh... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786620)

I didn't, and in a civilized, democratic and free country this is also the assumption of the law until proven otherwise. Which poses the question when this person was convicted of a crime so he had to hand the cellphone over without any other reason but an officer wanting it?

Re:Well duh... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786800)

...and in a civilized, democratic and free country this is also the assumption of the law until proven otherwise.

Assumptions are just that, and nothing more. There is no civilised society, and "freedom" is just a word that has no useful legal meaning. Justice is for those who can afford it, and if you happen to be pinged by any authorities as a dirtbag, you had better be prepared to mortgage your house and the life of your firstborn sprog if you want to stay out of jail or worse.

This seems a lot like self-incrimination (4, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786378)

Your smartphone is your data.

So it is extremely odious that police take away a person's cell phone, if the person is not being arrested or at least charged with a crime.

This is a far more significant breach than mere 4th amendment stuff. Police are looking for information you have recorded, instead of evidence of a crime.

The routine taking away of life-critical devices from 'suspects' is a menace to society. This does more harm to innocent people than criminals.

For people who rely on their smart phones for all communications, this would be similar to police impounding the right arm or left foot of suspects, to attempt to 'analyze' if they held a weapon, and demanding DNA from random people at a scene who are 'suspects' (whether there is actual cause to suspect them or not beyond mere presence/appearance).

This should be solved legally and technologically dealt with. Cell-phones should regularly purge latent/hidden data when charging AND resist attempts to gather data from them.

If someone is a suspect, the police should have to get a special warrant to access cell phone data, and it should be served not by confiscating the physical device, but by the court granting the police 10 minutes to hold the suspect's phone, during which all "data capture" must be completed.

If the physical phone is confiscated under a warrant for confiscation of the phone, then only physical aspects of the phone should be subject to analysis, not private data the user had stored, unless previously discovered

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786478)

Police departments are seldom equipped to handle combing a device for data, and we all know that most police officers are as tech illiterate as they can manage to be. My father was fatally shot a few years ago in his home, the police did an investigation and took 3 months past when the case was closed to return the hard drive from his computer to me. I'll be the first to say that that is excessive, but 10 minutes is rather brief.

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (3, Insightful)

leonardluen (211265) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786776)

10 minutes is by far not enough for several reasons. note: i have had computers and electronics seized by the DHS and kept for nearly 2 years (i was never charged and eventually everything was returned). my point is i have been on the receiving end of this, and even though having your stuff seized, especially if you have done nothing wrong, is really annoying, i will say that i understand why they keep it as long as they do.

the problem is entirely 100% the lawyers. if the police were only to take 10 minutes to copy the data and then return the device the defense lawyers would throw a fit and would argue how can it be proved that data came from a phone that is no longer in their possession. this is why they need to keep the physical devices until the case is either closed/dropped or all appeals are exhausted, even if on initial inspection they don't find anything useful on it. who knows on latter inspection maybe more information will be found that was missed the first time that can help either the defense or prosecution.

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786522)

I don't necessarily agree with your "life critical" reasoning.

However, I would like to think that the data on my phone would be encrypted. With Android, it shouldn't be too hard.

Things like date/time of calls and SMS don't need to be protected. Neither would location data. All these things can already be determined from 3rd party sources.

But the contents of my SD card (photos, text of SMS, calendar entries, etc) should be protected inside a TrueCrypt partition and secured with a long password.

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (1)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787226)

The text of the SMS is already in the Network operators computer.

I would be interested to know if the data stream (GPRS/3G) can actually be 'listened to" that is to say, that it could be unencrypted in the air. Certainly the receiving device has to be able to unencrypt it, but is it encrypted between the two points ? (could any other device intercept the data stream) ?

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (1)

Mass Overkiller (1999306) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786702)

I agree with your points but in the Real World this would never work out. Even though your data is YOUR DATA and thus should be private, no one is going to care - not the police, not their union or lawyers, not the judge. If you are not guilty and have enough money to sue the police, and take it to the supreme court, then good luck, you might get a law changed or reinterpreted. However for the rest of us, even if I was later released for XYZ fabricated crime, the police will still take my phone and pour through my private data looking for anything they want. And there wouldn't be a real world way to deal with that on my end.

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786724)

Password protect/lock your phone, dont use a 1 touch button to unlock. The cops wont be able to get into it right then and there, it would have to be sent to forensics, and if they ask you for your password you can plead the 5th.

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786816)

What's wrong with the police using evidence to reconstruct the scene of a crime?

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786818)

In the drug hysteria that hit the conservative and thoroughly corrupt administrations of Nixon(war on drugs 1971) and Reagan(1986 act to put minorities in jail for minor offenses and help cause the deficit to ballon) created a climate in which accused, not convicted, person would lose right to property and defense. Like the war on terror, an series of events were overblown to remove individual liberty.

The expansion of the states rights to take from citizens without due process really escalated when Nixon caved into the hysterical parents who decided not to raise their own children and Reagan realized he had a cool way to transferring tax money to his buddies. The idea that one could take property that was not evidence was novel at the time, but now accepted.

How does this relate? An office can search your car with no more probable cause than you are speeding. Now, in fact, the SCOTUS says that if you do not have access to the car a warrant must be gotten, but really why should a warrent every be provided because someone is speeding? It is the drug hysteria. Just like the terrorism hysteria.

Even with this the phone is never going to be a private apparatus. Police can search notebooks. The phone is often just an interface and the data sits on facebook which will roll over to the mildest pressure, or text which can be tapped. It astounds me that people are still being caught by their lovers because they are texting their other lovers. Do people check into foursquare at establishments they plan to rob? Do they text how they are going out a date with someone they plan to attack? Some of this is corrupt government, but some of it is simply incompetence. A certain amount of criminal activity I can tolerate, but incompentant criminals I never can. It is like bringing drugs to school or leaving notes about your plan to blow up a building in your house. Some people just want to get caught.

Re:This seems a lot like self-incrimination (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786974)

Welcome to the Roberts' court.

When they don't want the evidence presented (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786422)

Of course, if you there's anything that they don't want the public to see, they'll take the phone destroy it, and then charge the person with interfering with the police and/or wiretapping.

Re:When they don't want the evidence presented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786644)

Of course, if you there's anything that they don't want the public to see, they'll take the phone destroy it, and then charge the person with interfering with the police and/or wiretapping.

That.

This could be a good thing (2)

fotbr (855184) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786740)

Once a phone's location is generally accepted as showing where you were at a given time, it's an instant alibi.

Leave the damned thing turned on somewhere else, then go commit your crime.
Or turn off the ringer and vibration, box it up and take it to a somewhat nearby kinko's, and then fedex it back to yourself. Now it's on, and will travel around the city, while you do whatever it is you want to do.

If you get nicked, use that phone location and piles of court cases where phone records were admitted as proof of location.

Except .... (2)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786924)

That the phone records also show you taking it to the courier's office. Explain that one to the police.
Better to tape it to your neighbour's car just before he/she/it goes out - providing they aren't similarly criminally minded!

Re:Except .... (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787142)

Or as I think the GP was suggesting, just leave it at home or a friends house. No officer, I never left home that night.

Time for some new apps (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787210)

One button access to a phones Erase All facility. Perhaps tied to the passcode to access the phone. That way you can hand it over and the passcode that wipes it. Or simply keep the icon for this process on the main screen so you can quickly reset it. Of course its always better to reset it after you hand it over which requires being able to signal it over the air.

Some Apple devices use a hardware encryption which means once you tell it to erase all there is no easy way to access it, if its even possible. http://support.apple.com/kb/ht2110 [apple.com]

So with a newer iPhones you can do it this way, I am not sure about Android devices.

Re:This could be a good thing (2)

folderol (1965326) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787306)

No. The best possible alibi is no alibi - can't be disproved see. Go to location with no reception - switch off phone (and put in metal box) - do nastiness - go to new location with no reception - take phone out of box and switch on - go home. Prosecutor: Can you explain how your phone disappeared at X and reappeared at Y? You: Err, no. Sorry, I've no idea.

'Take Away Your Cellphone" Not 'Illegally Seize' (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36786768)

Nice bit of spin there. 2 points.

Pendulums swing. History Rhymes.

How long do the LEO's think the current regime of oppression will last?

What are the DOJ's and the LEO's thinking that the end game of society looks like? A boot on the face forever?

Do they think it will be their foot will be in the boot, forever? Are they immortal?

Do they really want to create a society of fear? Is that how they want to live?

If the LEO's and the DOJ's are not stopping the USA becoming a banana republic, nobody will.

If pensions are crumbling and jurisdictions are going bankrupt daily, the LEO's and the DOJ's should be fostering respect and cooperation with the community.

Not fear, oppression, abuse of power, and seeking of more unlimited, unchecked power.

Under manned in a society that loathes your colors is not a happy work place.

LEO's and DOJ's are there to serve the community. They are not the elite's tools of of oppression.

The LEO's and DOJ's must decide whose side they are on. The peoples or the elites.

That time is now.

They are computers, not phones (5, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786948)

The problem stems from the perception that it is a phone, when in fact it is a hand-held computer that happens to be able to place and receive phone calls. This is fundamentally no different than them seizing a laptop and rifling through it. It should obviously require a warrant unless the device was used in the commission of the crime and they can already prove that.

At least TFS is half right (2)

inviolet (797804) | more than 3 years ago | (#36786968)

"Your smartphone could place you at the scene of a crime, destroy an alibi or maybe even provide one – which is why one of the first things police now do at the scene of a crime is take away a suspect's cellphone.

Well. It will be used to prove you guilty to whatever extent is possible. It will NOT be used to disprove your guilt.

Humans respond to incentives, and police are humans. In our era the police are incented by the fact they are judged by their 'numbers' or 'stats'. So they do what is necessary to maximize those numbers. Other concerns are secondary.

In a future era we will look back on this "management by the numbers" as an expensive way to reduce management headcount. You can easily have 20 direct reports if you are permitted to use an Excel spreadsheet to judge their quality.

Security fail (2)

syncrotic (828809) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787506)

Obviously there's no legal protection for the data on your phone - not that there shouldn't be, but your privacy rights only go one way in modern society, so don't hold your breath - but where are the technical measures? We've seen that police use forensics devices that attach the data port [arstechnica.com] on the phone to give them immediate and complete access to the entire file system.

There's always a tradeoff between convenience and security, and it's time cell phones at least gave you the option to choose a bit more of the latter. How about not allowing read access via the USB port when the phone is locked? That's just basic common sense, but phone manufacturers and OS vendors don't take physical security seriously yet. How about cutting power to the phone when the back cover is removed? How about having a power-on password in addition to a lock-screen password, so the phone can't simply be put into recovery mode?

On a PC I can set a BIOS password, a hard drive password, and use full disk encryption of a sort that nobody will ever be able to break. If the machine is running but locked, suspended, or hibernating, even windows will ensure that there's no way to get at my data without actually having the proper credentials. There's no way to recover my passwords or encryption keys from memory, except for the rather technical, obscure, and time-sensitive technique of physically freezing the RAM and trying to read back its contents after a reboot. Compare this to joke that passes for file system encryption on the iphone.

In a lot of ways, smartphones store more valuable data than PCs do, and yet the options for protecting that data are virtually nonexistent.

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