News 3 Investigates: Cellphone Feature Can Track Your Every Move

(WSAV-TV)- Day in day out, your phone is collecting data of your every move. Private information that, with the right requests, can be seen by law enforcement and federal agencies.

Where is it, what is it, and how can you be better informed to monitor it. A few seconds combing through your phone and you”ll see a display of information very private yet easy to access.

“I bet you none of them even know this, like it even shows where i go to school and all that, that’s just surprising,” says student Constantine Sagustine who is visiting town with his family.

Deep in your privacy settings on iPhone users, there’s a map collecting your every location and time frame of being there. This technology is not new to developers of the phone, but most users don’t know about it.

“For people to see where my home is, where we live and the places we frequent to a lot, if they’re able to track us down, I don’t want people to have access to that,” says Angella Kellum who is seeing the feature for the first time.

What’s nerve wracking about this feature is that all it takes is a few swipes in the right direction and your, home, work, and other “frequent locations” could be on display if your phone is stolen or lost.

On the justice side of this debate, law enforcement agencies from local to federal already have the ability to ping your phones when you’re making a call or sending a text.

Stuart Glasby has worked alongside dozens of agencies in the cyber crimes forensics unit at Armstrong State University, but he’s seeing this information for the first time. From an investigators point of view, he says this tool could bypass all other search devices used by police.

“You don’t know which tower a phone may have hit off of and if you don’t know what time you have to specify a time frame, so having  the device itself record that information, for our purposes, it makes our job a lot easier,” Glasby says, he adds that, “if a suspect says he wasn’t in a place or time where say someone was murdered and then the phone actually says, the phone was there then that information becomes very important.”

How helpful then is this information? What are the chances that by just a few swipes in the right direction, this becomes a new tool for police? We took that question WSAV’s crime expert, retired police major Gerry Long.

“You still only got very generic information, it would be a beginning in combination with other investigative techniques such as surveillance, photographs and pictures that might have been take on the phone all of those things put together could narrow that down to a specific location,” Long says and she adds that, “you’re (police) still going to need that specific latitude and longitude in terms to where that phone was triangulated.”

Once departments know this information exists it takes just a few seconds to access. Should there be worry that police could over step protocol or larger agencies cypher through the information?

“Wouldn’t you want to assume that law enforcement is going to do the right thing and get a search warrant or a subpoena can be the same information they are requesting that from the provider,” asks Long also adding the case that,”there are exigent circumstances where they could probably get a verbal okay from a judge but they would still have to provide the same information as to why they need to access that information.”

Nothing in Apple’s privacy policy says this information will be protected if litigation or public safety prompts law enforcement to request it. Apple claims the information to be private, but they have seen several lawsuits over the data collecting.

With that said, none of this data collection is illegal. In fact, you as an iPhone or Google Android user have agreed to these services and data collections through the terms of conditions agreements carried by both developers. Before you mount up a invasion of privacy lawsuit, know that you can simply turn it off.

Here’s how you go through your phone’s settings to “Privacy”, from there to “Location Services”, scroll down to “System Services” and halfway down is “Frequent Locations” that carries all of that data and maps it out, you can then click it off.

“It’s off so hopefully they will not track me and for other people hopefully they’ll learn from this and turn theirs off so that they’ll be safer,” says Kellum who immediately turned her’s off following our interview.

This location feature is not directly visible on Android phone users but Glasby and Long showed us the phone does record longitude and latitude of photos.

A more direct way to reach this feature to cut it off is available below.

{Start at you Settings–>Privacy–>Location Services–>System Services–> Frequent Locations and turn it off.}

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