Zachary McCoy had never been in the home where the burglary occurred. By leaving his location settings on for the RunKeeper app, he unwittingly provided information to Google.
The alleged burglary took place three times on the day of the alleged crime – part of his usual route through the neighborhood. Google’s legal investigations team contacted him in January, notifying him that police were demanding information from his Google account.
The geofence warrant required Google to provide data from any devices it recorded near the scene of the burglary, including location. This data is usually drawn from Android location services; collection can be turned off from the’accounts’ menu in settings.
Law enforcement requests for geofence warrants have risen sharply in the past several years. Last year, the New York Times highlighted the 2018 case of Jorge Molina, accused in an Arizona homicide after police used a geofence warrant that suggested he was near the scene of the crime. The case against Molina eventually fell apart as new evidence came to light.
All new Google Play apps that seek background access are subject to a review process, beginning in August. All new apps that sought background access subject to review process.