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Location Services “ON”

8 May 2019

I am sure it is old news by now, but are we aware of the location history held by our iPhones & Androids?

This blog was prompted by a recent criminal investigation I was involved in, and I was over the moon to see that this information was included in the case.

On past training courses that I have delivered, this was my party piece, an opportunity for me to act like a magician in the room.  It always surprised me that this actually wasn’t common knowledge, but then I guess if you don’t know where it’s hidden and you don’t make a habit of exploring around your phone how you would know?  It’s not like it is broadcasted to you on purchase or made easy to find.

My trick was a very simple one, it started with me asking the Apple iPhone users in the room to do the go to the following:

Settings > Privacy > Location Services (click on the text) > System Services > Significant locations

Note: This requires your significant locations to be on.

You will be met with a list of historical significant locations (listed by town)

Upon selecting one of these locations, you will be presented with a screen similar to opposite:

You can then select each location for further details.  The below screen shows a more in-depth view of the location my device has visited, the time of day it was there and even how long it had spent travelling to get there!

All the groups that have been shown this were either shocked, intrigued, or a little concerned by it all. Some of the group’s devices had even worked out their home and work location based on the times spent there.

Following this demonstration, I moved onto the (rather smug) Android users in the room, who had already commented “that’s why I don’t buy Apple”

Well surprise surprise, I then asked the Android users to enter into their browsers “Google Location History Timeline” select the option google.com > maps > timeline (headed Timeline-Google), and all that was required was for them to select the log into their android accounts (if they have not done already).  Again, this was met with a shocked response.  Not only did it have location history, it also had photos and the routes travelled – even more information than the Apple had stored!

Google Timeline is also not just restricted to mobile devices, you can log into this via a browser and view on your desktop if required.

Now I am sure you will agree that for an investigator, this information is golden; whether it is a suspect’s or a victim’s phone, this information can help show movements of a device, frequent locations and travel trends.

Coupled with cell site analysis this can be a strong piece of evidence to any case.  If you ever need to discuss digital investigation opportunities, please feel free to contact me via a direct message.

All the groups that have been shown this were either shocked, intrigued, or a little concerned by it all. Some of the group’s devices had even worked out their home and work location based on the times spent there.

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Case Review Manager - Criminal Cases Review Commission