We are all aware that we live in a society that is constantly monitored. CCTV cameras in large cities can record our movements, and many residences now have them installed for security.
Finally, most people are aware that the location where a mobile telephone call was made can be pinpointed to within a few hundred metres. Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras take a snapshot of car number plates and can not only monitor average speed for road traffic enforcement purposes, but can also track the movement of a vehicle over hundreds of miles in most cases; and finally, most people are aware that the location where a mobile telephone call was made can be pinpointed to within a few hundred metres in most cases.
Who knew, though, that an App loaded on every Apple phone, as well as equivalent Apps on Android devices, may hold the key to solving a murder case?
Hussein Khavari, a defendant in Germany, learned this the hard way when he was tried for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student.
While part of the defendant’s movements could be pieced together, his whereabouts at important times were unknown.
Investigators then focused their attention on his phone, which had been seized as evidence.
Specialists were able to get into the phone and review the data despite the fact that the owner refused to provide police the pin to unlock it.
When looking at data from the Health App, it was clear that at key points, which the police duplicated, the data showed a large increase in activity, which corresponded to key sections of the prosecution case, such as dragging a body down a river embankment before climbing back up.
This information is being used to refute Khavari’s account of the killing, which he claims happened by chance, occurred in a separate area, and was not premeditated.
The use of ostensibly private data has sparked debate, especially when there is a conflict between the right to privacy and the proper investigation of crimes. Strong encryption technology is said to be making life tough for investigators, and the Home Secretary has mentioned the need for new legislation several times.
This storey also serves as a reminder that encryption is only as strong as the password used to protect it.
A data specialist can crack a 4-digit default code to safeguard a phone or other device in minutes, but a ten-digit random code will most likely take several years to crack, if at all.
In the United Kingdom, police can request that a suspect hand out pin numbers and passwords in certain circumstances; failing to do so can result in a criminal charge of up to 5 years in prison (s 53 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000).
How We Can Assist
The problem of privacy and its place in criminal justice, as well as the obligation to hand over pins/passwords, is a new and emerging topic.
It’s vital to seek expert guidance as soon as possible before releasing (or refusing) your data secrets, or if you’re under investigation for criminal offences.
Update: More information on a case that involved an Alexa as a witness to the Prosecution!
How can we help?
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819