Technology is constantly changing the ways in which we interact with the world around us, including how crime happens and how police find those who commit crimes. Many of us have our entire lives on our phones and bring it everywhere. Police know that, though, and can use some information from your cell phone in criminal investigations.
Cell phone towers and Stingrays
“Stingrays” are devices that law enforcement may use to simulate a cell phone tower. This tricks your phone into connecting to it and giving out your location and identifiers. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, both local and state police have access to Stingray devices in Texas.
Phone company records
Phone and internet companies are often logging the data of users. Law enforcement can request that information with a warrant and use it to inform cases. They can search for when your phone was in a certain area and potentially use that as evidence to incriminate you.
Search and seizure of phones
Police may search your phone with a warrant or on the grounds of probable cause, meaning that they believe there is evidence of criminal activity on your device. They will likely ask that you unlock it if you have a password, though you do not always have to give it to them. However, if law enforcement has a warrant to search your devices, they will find a way to get into it.
Everything you put on the internet is public. Even if you have your social media settings on private, there are ways that police can potentially still access your information there. Any incriminating posts or geographical tags could be used as evidence. With a warrant, the police may be able to look deeper into your social media’s private information and messages.
With our lives documented on our devices, police work is evolving to use technology as well. They may be able to track and incriminate you solely through your smartphone.