After being tipped off by my friend Sully, it seems The Sun Times of Chicago had an article that I found to be just as amusing as interesting. The story relates to criminal cases in which iPhones are seized in a search warrant. Apparently our beloved device has more data stored on it that other smartphones, which can be used by investigators to figure out whose telling the truth, but more importantly, who isn’t.

Detective Josh Fazio is quoted saying, “When someone tells me they have an iPhone in a case, I say, ‘Yeah!’ I can do tons with an iPhone,”. He’s right, sort of. If an iPhone is already seized in a case that already has had a warrant issued, I would hope that there is more valuable evidence recovered that would actually demand said permission.

While many owners (criminal or not) routinely delete call info and text messages, deleting such content doesn’t actually rid it from the phone’s history. As John B. Minor, a member of the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners tells us, the data is stored in the phones “memory”, making it easy for technically sound officers to access the content.

Some of the data in question is:

  • GPS apps, which automatically takes a private screen shot of the last image, as soon as you exit the application
  • Pictures stamped with geo coordinates, which could possibly record the serial number of the specific device it was taken on.
  • Browser GPS info Apple allows for advertising, which of course includes what sites you’ve been snooping in.

Perhaps the most useful information the police can access is that from your on-screen keyboard. You know that useful feature of having your iPhone that “learns your language”? That too could be accessed, allowing authorities to literally follow your every text, email, or tweet. Is anyone, whether you’re a criminal or not, a bit sketched out by this?

All of this makes for a nice story, but what happened to “real” criminals using throw away, pay-as-you-go phones? One look at my bank account will tell you I’m no lawyer, however I don’t think police can just look through your phone without permission, (barring warrants, of course). Am I the only one who would like some testimonials of actual cases solved by recovering iPhones?

The article ends with some generic story of a father reunited with his “run-away” daughter, whom which was simply staying at a friend of hers; which makes me wonder just how useful any iPhones recovered have been in Chicago. I don’t promote illegal activity, but I also think Big Brother needs someone watching them. So is this a legitimate avenue for officers, or just another example of freedom through removal of privacy? Use your 1st Amendment rights below in our comment box, and tell us your side of the story.

  • Paul Zammit

    The detective will not say “Hell Yeah” when he has found out that the iPhone has been remotely wiped

    • exactly what I was thinking!!!! *poof*

      • DKindaFLESH

        Wouldn’t u just use cylay or something like that to wipe a jailbroken iPhone? of course u wud have 2 b @ a computer but this is still easy to do. You can lock the phone and piss off the cops.

  • Anon – UK

    I can’t speak for the US but in the UK our technology isn’t advanced enough to take advantage of the info stored on an iPhone, especially not without breaking it. As for recovering deleted texts etc. that can be done with any phone & it’s not possible to tell when the text was sent/received. It’s very rare for anything to be solved on the siezure of one phone

    • Z

      Usually text msg content and outgoing/incoming call history can be requested from the carrier the phone is serviced by. It’s even possible for prepaid, since there is still a physical registration of the number in the system. So that’s not new, and I’m sure it’s available in UK. As of retrieving data from the phone’s memory? Rebooting the phone should erase all temp memory.

      However, after browsing the entire content of my 3GS I realized that there are files that I wish I had knowledge to look into and be able to read/understand.

  • Jason masters

    I follow the old adage from NWA ” f u c k the police”!!

  • anon

    anyone watch the boondocks the other day?
    they had the iphone in it, and it had the same outcome as this story

  • Minh Nguyen

    I don’t think the remotely wipe your data from your iphone is gonna help you at all if you are under such investigation. I believe that the hard drives on the iphone work very similar to those from a computer. The hard drive are divided into slots in which data are written on. The data on those slots cannot be deleted by any mean but can only be replaced with new data. Wiping data/formating the drive would not delete the information stored there but simply disconnect the device from accessing those data and notify the device that the data slots are ready to be overwrite with new data. The hard drive on the iphone can be removed and connect to variety of forensic software which can recapture and rebuild those data. The only way to permanently wipe those data is to overwrite every slots in the hard drive with junks data. There are softwares for PC to do that but I do not believe there is any for the iPhone as for now. And not just for criminal investigation, data hackers can use the same method to get your personal information (credit cards, Social Security…) if they have your iphone too. Maybe we need to reconsider with trading our used iphone.

    • Brittany

      My phone was remotely wiped and then I had a forensic person try to get the deleted data from the IOS and nothing was there. It was wiped clean. So I’m interested in what the above person is talking about.