He Was Riding His Bike With An App To Track His Miles. Then He Became A Burglary Suspect.

Zachary McCoy is an avid biker who makes frequent loops around his neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida. To track his rides, McCoy, 30, uses the app RunKeeper, which uses his phone’s location services to track his movements.

The tracking, however, eventually led to McCoy becoming a suspect in a burglary he didn’t commit – because the app showed he had passed the victim’s home three times in an hour on the day of the crime, NBC News reported. McCoy had no clue he had become a suspect or that police had access to his data until he received an email from Google’s legal investigations support team, informing him that local police requested his data and the only way to stop them from receiving it was to go to court. The email said he had seven days to try and block the subpoena.
“I was hit with a really deep fear,” McCoy told the outlet.
“I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew the police wanted to get something from me,” he added. “I was afraid I was going to get charged with something, I don’t know what.”
McCoy’s only clue about what was going on was a case number Google included in its email to him. McCoy searched that number on the Gainesville Police Department’s website and learned of the burglary, which had occurred less than one mile from his home. He feared going to police and trying to clear his name would backfire, so he drove to his parents’ home in St. Augustine. He told them about the notice and they decided to help him pay for an attorney.
He hired attorney Caleb Kenyon, who discovered McCoy’s data was collected via a “geofence warrant,” which allows police to collect Google location data from the area’s around crime scenes. Police receive only the data without identifying information, but once they zero in on data that looks suspicious, they can request the data.
Because McCoy’s phone showed he had passed the victim’s home multiple times on the day of the burglary, police requested his information.
It was then he realized it was the RunKeeper app that likely led to him becoming a suspect, because he was able to look up his routine from the day of the crime.
“It was a nightmare scenario,” McCoy told NBC. “I was using an app to see how many miles I rode my bike and now it was putting me at the scene of the crime. And I was the lead suspect.”
Kenyon spoke with the detective on the case and told him, “You’re looking at the wrong guy.” He filed a motion to declare the warrant “null and void” on January 31 in Alachua County civil court in order to block Google from releasing more information about McCoy. He used John Doe in the motion to protect McCoy’s privacy, as Google hadn’t released any identifying information about him yet. Kenyon argued in the motion, according to NBC News, that the warrant was unconstitutional because it allowed police to forgo current search methods by targeting a single suspect and instead cast a huge net before targeting someone.
“This geofence warrant effectively blindly casts a net backwards in time hoping to ensnare a burglar,” Kenyon wrote in the motion. “This concept is akin to the plotline in many a science fiction film featuring a dystopian, fascist government.”
Luckily for McCoy, the filing forced law enforcement to rethink their investigation. Kenyon said an attorney from the state attorney’s office said the motion led them to rethink McCoy – whose name they did not know at them – was not the burglar. The warrant was withdrawn and Kenyon dropped his legal challenge. Today, McCoy is not a suspect, but the privacy issue his case represents goes much deeper, plus, there is still a burglary victim out there.
“I’m definitely sorry that happened to her, and I’m glad police were trying to solve it,” McCoy told NBC. “But it just seems like a really broad net for them to cast. What’s the cost-benefit? How many innocent people do we have to harass?”
He Was Riding His Bike With An App To Track His Miles. Then He Became A Burglary Suspect. He Was Riding His Bike With An App To Track His Miles. Then He Became A Burglary Suspect. Reviewed by Your Destination on March 11, 2020 Rating: 5

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