Working 4 You: Technology vs. Law: Why Phone Tracking App is Leaving Law in Dark Ages

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In a world where technology moves as fast as the second-hand ticks on a clock, there’s room for laws to be delayed.

Diana Wright is a busy working mother, without any room for day-of mishaps.

“It was early in the morning,” says Wright.”I just grabbed him [her son] out of the car seat.”

She says dropping her son off, a normally 30-second task, turned into all-day trouble.

“[I] realized my wallet and phone had been stolen,” says Wright. “Very aggravating.”

Shortly after the theft, she knew where her phone was thanks to the Find my iPhone app.

“It showed that my phone was at an apartment complex,” says Wright.

It was so close… and minutes away.

“I called the Detective and told him what was going on and said, hey I know where it is so can you go get it and he basically said ‘no ma’am I can’t’,” says Wright.

The stolen phone may be pinging from inside a home and the police are unable to do anything about it and It happens more than you might think 

“Maybe the laws need to be updated a little bit on that,” says Bryant Police Sergeant Todd Crowson.

Crowson says they use the phone tracking apps as a starting point.

“It’s pinging at 123 Main Street, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be right there,” says Crowson.

While it’s likely different technology being used between the Find my iPhone app and a 911 call center, Crowson says even when someone calls 911 from a cell phone, it usually doesn’t give an exact address.

“We’re way over here but you can where it plotted me. You can see the difference,” says Crowson.

Even if the app determined the stolen phone’s exact location, Crowson says laws today do not give officers the authority to go inside someone’s home where the stolen phone is pinging.

“I’d say we’re getting there,” says Crowson.

Rep. Stephen Meeks (R-District 67), says laws concerning technology are hardly touched.

“Technology is an ever-changing part of our lives,” says Meeks. “Things like this will happen and we don’t react to it because we’re not familiar with it or no one has told us this is an issue. So when you brought this to me… yeah I never considered that before.”

Meeks says before he can write legislation giving officers more flexibility to use the app while obtaining a search warrant, it would have to be proven the app finding the stolen phone’s location is accurate without any reasonable doubt.

“You can get into areas where there can be conflicting interests between privacy and freedom so trying to find that balance is also a challenge,” says Meeks.

Wright admits there’s likely more that goes into getting a search warrant but hopes things can be changed soon for a better outcome.

“I also know I’m not the only person this has ever happened too,” says Wright. “iPhone’s are expensive. We need that law changed.”

Police have found the Find my iPhone app to been successful in many cases, including the kidnapping of a California woman after her husband used the app to track his missing wife’s phone which led to the area where she was abducted.

Then he used the “Find my iPhone” mobile app to track his missing wife’s phone, police said. The app led him to an area near Sunrise Drive and Old Oregon Trail, where he found his wife’s cellphone and earbuds with strands of hair attached to them.

In 2012, two suspects were arrested in Atlanta for robbing five women at gunpoint. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, officers tracked the suspects by using the Find My iPhone app to find one of the stolen iPhones.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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