IPhone drops dime on rape-murder suspect

Health app showed suspect “climbing stairs,” just when he would have dragged the body down a river embankment, then climbed back up.

From an item posted Thursday on Motherboard:

Hussein K., an Afghan refugee in Freiburg, has been on trial since September for allegedly raping and murdering a student in Freiburg, and disposing of her body in a river. But many of the details of the trial have been hazy—no one can agree on his real age, and most notably, there’s a mysterious chunk of time missing from the geodata and surveillance video analysis of his whereabouts at the time of the crime.

He refused to give authorities the passcode to his iPhone, but investigators hired a Munich company (which one is not publicly known) to gain access his device, according to German news outlet Welt. They searched through Apple’s Health app, which was added to all iPhones with the release of iOS 8 in 2014, and were able to gain more data about what he was doing that day. The app records how many steps he took and what kind of activity he was doing throughout that day.

The app recorded a portion of his activity as “climbing stairs,” which authorities were able to correlate with the time he would have dragged his victim down the river embankment, and then climbed back up. Freiburg police sent an investigator to the scene to replicate his movements, and sure enough, his Health app activity correlated with what was recorded on the defendant’s phone.

My take: Wait, there's a company in Munich that will crack iPhones for cash?

One Comment

  1. Jonathan Mackenzie said:
    This is long, but so what. I kept hoping someone else would post on this.

    Does this creep anyone out?

    I mean on the one hand Law Enforcement has always had (and should always have) access to the science of the day in order to build a case against criminals. Go Law Enforcement. I’m all about police catching bad guys. No problem there.

    But there was a recent case where the prosecution tried to obtain the voice recordings from an Alexa for the day of a murder.

    As our lives become digitized, it becomes easier for anyone — a government agent, a private investigator, or a ne’er do well — to recreate our digital existence in order to learn something about us. Millennials seem to have no problem leaving their messy digital fingerprints on everything, but someone my age generally is less comfortable with the notion. The plain fact is that you could be enthusiastically involved in perfectly legal online behavior, leaving a wide digital wake behind you without concern, only to find a piece of it used to connect you to something embarrassing or possibly illegal. Or used by a fraud to convince someone that they are really you.

    It may be no worse than if someone had followed you around all your life with a camera and microphone, recording you every encounter in the real world. But it may be no better. If every ridiculous comment you had ever made or every idiotic situation you found yourself in could be played back to you at any time in order to embarrass you or scrutinize you, that would be a pretty good representation of threat we face from the increasing digitization of our lives.

    And the problem grows larger the more of yourself you keep stored online: Your Amazon shopping cart, your online portfolio, the comment you made on a Mother Jones article on a mishap at a prison. It’s all there, perfectly describing for anyone who has the resources to see: who you are, what you enjoy, and which ideas you have explored in writing.

    It may be that we are fortunate enough to be living in a low threat environment. The government may have no reason to care about us, and our brushes with identity theft may be of the common and minor variety. But is this forever? Do we have any reason to fear that our every movement, idea, even heartbeat might be stored forever?

    The obvious remedy is to limit your digital footprint. But this becomes increasingly difficult for any well assimilated citizen of the modern world. And if the current growth of cyberspace continues, it will soon be impossible to have any meaningful control over the volume of information linked to you and stored online. It probably already is.

    So like it or not, we are becoming increasingly easy to find and available for inspection by nearly anyone who cares enough to look.

    One of the promises of global connectedness was that ideas could be shared peer-to-peer across the globe in realtime. That feels very democratizing to me. But if every idea we explore, even theoretically among interested peers, becomes permanently etched in the public square, that just sounds dangerous to me on many levels.

    January 14, 2018

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