08.23.12

Facebook, Find My iPhone

Facebook + Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone is a nifty feature in Apple’s iOS that shows a map of wherever a person’s phone is. While the main purpose of this feature is listed as finding misplaced phones, most people tend to presciently enable it hoping to recover their not-yet-stolen phone.

David Pogue, a New York Times technology writer, recently had his phone stolen and was using the Find My iPhone feature to locate his phone, which found its way to a rough part of Maryland. Being a high profile person, Pogue was able to get the help of a local police officer who said he would knock on the door where the phone’s GPS was located and ask for the phone. Because the GPS accuracy varies, the police officer said that getting a search warrant would be tricky and that if the person simply denied stealing the phone that there wouldn’t be much more they could do. In a separate case, police in Ottawa denied granting a search warrant based on location alone stating that: “Just because an app says that this is the location of where a laptop is or where a device is, it doesn’t provide us with the full picture”.

With the recent additions of Facebook to iOS6, Apple should also include Facebook in its Find My iPhone application. This would effectively give you the full identity of whoever stole your phone, which coupled with the location data, should be more than enough to justify a search warrant. While not everyone uses Facebook’s mobile application, its use is more common among young people (who are more likely to steal a smartphone to begin with). This would not only allow people to retrieve their stolen phone, but would also deter thieves from taking the phone in the first place because they wouldn’t be able to use Facebook.

Another solution is for Facebook to implement this themselves since a thief might be able to get around Find My iPhone by wiping your phone first. Facebook already shows you devices that your account is connected to and optionally allow you to require Two Factor Authentication when logging in from a new device. They have a unique identifier within the app that knows the Device ID, so it wouldn’t be that much more for them to also show other accounts connected to the same account in the specific case of smartphone apps since it’s highly unlikely for multiple people to use the same smartphone.

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