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iPhones as Evidence in Criminal Cases: What You Should Know

By Jason Beahm on September 13, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If your criminal clients are using iPhones, you should warn them that they are leaving a gold mine of information for the police to access if (when) they get arrested.

Former hacker Jonathan Zdziarski now works with the police, teaching them how to access data from iPhones as evidence. He wrote a 144 page book on the matter called iPhone Forensics. Zdziarski wants to educate police about how much information is stored on iPhones and how they can acquire the data for criminal cases.

Especially when it comes to cases involving high profile crimes and defendants, forensic scientists can retrieve far more off of phones than you might expect. "Very, very few people have any idea how to actually remove data from their phone," said Sam Brothers in the USA Today. Brothers works as a cell-phone forensic researcher with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "It may look like everything's gone," he said. "But for anybody who's got a clue, retrieving that information is easy."

In addition to recovering data that clients think they have erased, Zdziarski explained a number of ways in which investigations can use iPhone as evidence of potentially incriminating data. For example:

  • The iPhone maps program stores screenshots of maps that the users accessed. These maps can be used to prove where a suspect went, and when.
  • iPhone photos also embed tags that have information including GPS coordinates and the serial number of the phone. That information could be extremely damaging to a criminal defendant.
  • Investigators can also access the history of the browser to see what defendants have been searching for.

And this is really just the tip of the iceberg. So if your clients are not willing to give up on their criminal activities, you can instruct them to do themselves a favor and stop giving the police digital evidence on a silver platter. As comedian Ron White once said, "I Had the Right to Remain Silent...But I Didn't Have the Ability."

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