Armed bank robber accuses the police of conducting an illegal search using Google location data

A raider who eventually held a bank and forced an employee to open a vault allowing him to run away with $ 195,000 in cash, is now attempting to challenge his armed robbery by saying that the police & # 39; unorthodox search methods & # 39; used to catch him.

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Okello Chatrie entered a bank in Midlothian, Virginia with a cell phone in his ear in May.

It was this seemingly nonsensical gesture that gave researchers the idea of ​​using the location data of his cell phone to track him down.

Chatrie was caught on surveillance footage and ran out of $ 195,000 in cash, but detectives noticed that he also had a mobile in his hand at the time

Chatrie was caught on surveillance footage and ran out of $ 195,000 in cash, but detectives noticed that he also had a mobile in his hand at the time

Okello Chatrie, 24, is said to have robbed a bank in Midlothian, Virginia in May

Okello Chatrie, 24, is said to have robbed a bank in Midlothian, Virginia in May

Okello Chatrie, 24, is said to have robbed a bank in Midlothian, Virginia in May

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When the authorities struggled to identify their suspicious weeks after the robbery, officers were able to obtain an order for Google's location data from all mobile phones that were near the Call Federal Credit Union bank at the time of the robbery.

From there they could get a list of 19 phone numbers until they were able to refine things and locate their suspect: the 24-year-old Okello Chatrie, from Richmond, Virginia. Chatrie was eventually accused.

The request for Google data is known as a geofence command and a way for law enforcement authorities to benefit from the vast amount of information that the company holds on its servers according to NBC News.

But it's not just those with Google / Android phones that can be followed. Anyone using Google maps or even Gmail can be determined in time to a specific location because the information is stored on Google's servers.

Proponents of privacy say that the government essentially allows the police to violate the fourth amendment, which protects against unreasonable house searches.

The police contacted Google to obtain a geofence order to provide the details of all mobile phones that were near the bank at the time of the robbery

The police contacted Google to obtain a geofence order to provide the details of all mobile phones that were near the bank at the time of the robbery

The police contacted Google to obtain a geofence order to provide the details of all mobile phones that were near the bank at the time of the robbery

Investigators struggled to identify their suspect only from the bank's security images
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Investigators struggled to identify their suspect only from the bank's security images

Investigators struggled to identify their suspect only from the bank's security images

Chatrie's lawyers try to use the defense to fight the geofence order that could convict him if he is convicted of the armed robber.

& # 39; It is the digital equivalent of searching every home near a reported break-in, or searching the bags of every person walking on Broadway due to a theft in Times Square, & # 39; Chatrie's lawyers wrote in a file as seen through CNBC.

& # 39; Without the name or number of a single suspect and without ever showing any likelihood that Google even has data related to a crime, the police are affecting the privacy of tens or hundreds or thousands of people just because they were in the area. & # 39;

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The Chatrie lawyers said that Google location data, which can locate people quickly, cheaply, and retroactively, is an unprecedented extension of law enforcement power & # 39 ;.

Chatrie claims that the search was illegal and violates his fourth amendment that protects people from illegal searches and seizures

Chatrie claims that the search was illegal and violates his fourth amendment that protects people from illegal searches and seizures

Chatrie claims that the search was illegal and violates his fourth amendment that protects people from illegal searches and seizures

The geofence order in the case took data from probably thousands of devices because it required data from all mobile phones with Google apps or software within 150 meters of the bank from an hour before the robbery to an hour after.

Prosecutors argue that the search was completely legal because Chatrie had signed up for Google's location services, allowing his Android phone and Google's apps to follow his movements.

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& # 39; The geofence command enabled them to solve the crime and protect the public by investigating a remarkably limited and targeted set of records from Google & # 39 ;, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Chatrie has not pleaded guilty and is waiting for a trial.

Geofence data has been used previously, including in North Carolina, Minnesota, Virginia, and Arizona cases, but there is no easy way to keep track of cases that have been resolved with such data privacy campaigning.

Between July 2018 and June 2019, 19,000 search commands were sent to Google.

& # 39; Americans should not rely on closed-door negotiations between a private company and a public prosecutor to protect their data, & # 39; said Nathan Freed Wessler, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer.

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& # 39; We need a court to ensure that rules are drawn up so that we do not end up in a society where the police have access to a lot of information from bystanders while searching for a culprit.

& # 39; Cases such as these are not just about criminal defendants. It is about all our rights under the Constitution. & # 39;

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