Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

iPhone App Data Used in Criminal Investigation

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jan 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

An iPhone's Health app data is being used as crucial evidence in a rape and murder investigation in Germany. Last November, Hussein K. admitted to raping and murdering a 19-year-old German student. In a state court in Freiburg, he confessed to kicking the young woman off of her bicycle and strangling her with his scarf. He then proceeded to assault and rape  her. In an attempt to get rid of any evidence, he threw her body into a nearby river. 

There were a lot of gaps and contradictions regarding Hussein's story. Prosecutors were able to piece together some more of the information as soon as they got ahold of his mobile phone. They received two significant breaks in their investigation from the discovery of his iPhone 6. 

First, they were able to contact his father, who gave prosecutors and judges details about his son's life including verifying his actual age (he lied to German police leading them to believe he was a minor). Second, they were able to use data from the iOS' built-in Health application to fill in the gaps of his story based on his reported activity on the day of the crime. This included his exertion of energy when he allegedly climbed up and down stairs and dragged the victim down a river embankment to dispose of her body. 

Hussein refused to give his passcode to the authorities. However, the German investigators got into his phone with the aid of an anonymous Munich company. The company was able to collect all of this data through bypassing his iPhone 6's lock screen. Health application data has been used in court cases before this, but this situation is noteworthy. It appears to be the first case of an iPhone 6 being cracked.

According to, even though the access to data in cases like this may prove to be vital, we should be concerned that, without adequate privacy protections, this access could very easily be abused.

We should always assume that everything we do digitally will never fully go away. The more technology advances, the more courts tend to analyze privacy issues versus public interest issues. So regarding extreme cases like this, it could be seen that it is in the public's best interest that our data is accessed. But applied more broadly, this would mean that every aspect of our lives that we carry with us digitally can be obtained and possibly misinterpreted and misused.

Today, phones can be used not only to track who we are talking to, but so much more, including where we are located. This case is the perfect example. As a result of an application on his phone, authorities could see his physical exertion through the iOS Health tracking and fill in the gaps of his crime. 

We need to be aware of the power of technology - especially the devices that we carry around on a daily basis.

Extreme cases such as this make bad law that can affect innocent people or people wanting to protect their privacy. 

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About the Author

Richard Lawson

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