Helping to solve a crime with Google tools
I was the victim of a street robbery a few weeks ago. After ending up on the floor on my back with knives pointing at me, I handed over my Android phone and wallet. After the incident I was just happy that I had not been stabbed.
The next day I realised I could connect through to the phone on the Android Market through a web browser. Although my phone was supposed to be blocked, it seemed to be active and using a different mobile network. I attempted to do a silent remote install of the "Plan B" app. Although this seemed to install successfully, it did not send me back a location. I then remembered that I had Google Latitude installed on the phone. I opened up the Latitude web site on a browser and it had logged a GPS position for me that day in a place I had never been to. I then used Google maps satellite view to get the exact house. I used street view to get the exact house number. Google Latitude logged this position a few more times later that day and the next day. I then got worried that all my gmail email and other private data could be seen, so I changed my Google password. Obviously that was the end of my contact with the phone.
After getting the appropriate search warrants and following the correct procedures, the police searched the house where the phone had logged the GPS positions. Although they didn't find my phone there, they found five other stolen mobile phones that had involved knifed attacks. The police also think there is a good chance that my ripped shirt will have the attackers' DNA on it. The shirt is being processed at a lab. A big thanks to the Metropolitan Police, who were all really nice and helpful - they do a fantastic job. Thanks also to Google for awesome phones and services.
If you have an Android phone then I would recommend installing the AndroidLost app:http://www.androidlost.com/
I wish I had this installed on my old phone. It looks like it makes tracking down a phone easy - even if you have just misplaced it.
A few years ago I don't think I would have installed an app like Latitude due to privacy paranoia. I guess this sort of backs up +Jeff Jarvis
' argument for the benefits of sharing in the digital age!
Sorry for the long post but it was cathartic! Maybe the details in this post will help others if they end up in a similar situation.