The Guardian recently ran a story on examining how well device tracking software actually works in real life situations. While all of us want our phones back right now, the reality is that it can take up to 45 days to recover a stolen device, even one with tracking, and the chances of recovery are pretty slim. With only 2% of stolen devices being recovered, some of them with tracking installed, just what is going on?
Most of the time, people learn after the fact that GPS data alone is just not enough for police to obtain a search warrant, since it has questionable reliability and may not be specific enough (what if it indicates a whole building?). GPS data needs to be supplemented by additional forensic evidence before police can act.
“Officers use many different ways of investigating crime and information retrieved from an app would be a reasonable line of inquiry to follow up. Police receive information through different channels, and whether that is in person at a station or through an app, officers have a duty to assess the information and take appropriate action to prevent or detect crime,” notes the Royal College of Policing in the UK.
When not enough forensic evidence is present, police have no choice but to prioritize investigations by both their severity as well as their chance of being solved. In many criminal reports do not have enough solvability factors to be assigned to an investigator. Instead, they are reviewed and occasionally the victim is contacted or the property entered into the stolen property database. But otherwise no direct action is taken unless additional solvability factors are subsequently uncovered.
Some people may try to circumvent the police, believing they won’t get their device back otherwise, or falsely believing it’s safe to attempt their own recovery. Self-recovery is very dangerous, and we encourage you to read this vigilantism whitepaper for more on why.
As The Guardian notes, technology has provided us with a lot of power over our data. There exist many options to erase data on stolen devices, and we can rely on cloud back-ups to restore our data to us, but what about recovery? When it comes to recovery of stolen devices, only Absolute LoJack has an Investigations Team of experts to provide police with additional evidence (increase the solvability factors) to help recover stolen devices. When police are faced with so many device thefts, being given the opportunity to close cases and recover devices with less police involvement is what makes all the difference!
Read more about the difference between device tracking and device recovery in the following resources: