One of the residents of Florida ended up in a very unpleasant situation. While cycling, he activated the route tracking function in his fitness app on his smartphone. After that, because of these location data, he became a crime suspect.
The resident of Florida, Zachary McCoy, activated the location tracking settings in the RunKeeper app during a cycling trip. While he was cycling along his usual route, he biked near the house where a burglary took place that day for three times. Route data has been automatically transmitted to Google. At the same time, as a part of the investigation of the crime, the police sent a request to Google to disclose some location data – it is a type of search warrant. The police requested data from any devices recorded near the place of the burglary on the day of the crime. Typically, these data are collected from Android location services.
The Google team contacted McCoy in January, notifying him that Gainesville police had requested information from his Google account. Police later prosecuted him as a burglary suspect. Apparently, it seemed suspicious to the police that one person was near the scene of the crime three times.
Zachary McCoy hired a lawyer to defend his interests. According to the suspect, he was never in the house where the crime was committed.
Over the past few years, the number of law enforcement requests for location data disclosures has increased dramatically. In 2018, their number increased by 1,500% compared to 2017, and in 2019, by another 500% compared to 2018. The media previously covered the case of Jorge Molina, who in 2018 was accused of murder in Arizona after the police used a warrant to disclose his location data and found out that he was near the crime scene. The case against Molina eventually fell apart when new proof appeared.