Innocent Cyclist Becomes Main Suspect in Theft Case Due to Google Location Data
It would be discomforting to receive an email from Google’s legal investigations support team letting you know that your local police need information about your Google account. This is precisely what happened to Florida inhabitant, Zachary McCoy.
The 30-year-old had cycled past an aged woman’s house three times in one day, unintentionally the day she was burgled. As McCoy had used a cycling tracking app, Google kept all of his data, which was then revealed to the local police force.
Well McCoy was guilty of measuring his cycling distance.
How do the police get info about your location?
Even without you comprehending it, Google can gather data from your Android or Apple devices. Without even using Google Maps your location can be learned, and that’s exactly what happened to McCoy when he got on his bike in mid-January.
The 30-year-old was logging his cycling trip on his Android phone by an app called Runkeeper. As the cycling app logs his bike rides, it also records his location. It turns out that on the same day, a 97-year-old woman was burglarized, McCoy had biked past her house thrice.
Law Enforcement is abusing our location data and it's causing more harm than good – https://t.co/dIcVYjAF9Y
Zachary McCoy enjoys riding his bike. It's a great way to get a little fresh air and exercise, and millions like him do the…
— Android News Pro (@AndroidFaqs) March 9, 2020
“It was a frightening scenario,” he told NBC. “I was using an app to see how many miles I rode my bike, and now it was placing me at the scene of the crime. And I was the chief suspect.”
It all eventually worked out fine for McCoy as his lawyer was able to depict the police warrant “null and void.” In this situation, it was good that McCoy was able to walk away Scot-free, though, it stresses how technology can help law enforcement to seek and catch criminals.
Even though this method faces confidentiality and civil liberty issues and questions, it does show how this type of technology could help resolve certain crimes. One of the larger issues at hand is the fact that a person, in this case, McCoy, could be completely uninformed that their location is being recorded and saved by Google, even without running Google Maps.
Google confirmed back in 2018 that it follows user location data even when the location setting is off. Later then, the company has made attempts to improve privacy on particular devices. But McCoy’s case proves that many users still aren’t even conscious of this, and of what happens to their data.