Android’s pattern lock might not be the best way to lock your smartphone, but at least it’s good enough to stump the FBI. Now the bureau is asking Google for help to unlock a pimp’s Samsung smartphone.
The phone in question was used by Dante Dears, a San Diego pimp. Dears had previously spent some time in prison for his crime after a 15 year-old girl described how he took her from a homeless shelter, made her a prostitute, and beat her.
Since getting out of prison Dears was said to violate his parole by owning a cell phone, though he claims it belonged to his sister. Informants say Dears used the Android phone to continue operating his pimping organization remotely.
Ars Technica reports that the FBI obtained the phone from Dears who refused to unlock it for the bureau, though his parole prevented him from trying to hide or lock digital files. The FBI tried to unlock the phone using the pattern lock, but were unable to do so. The FBI tried the pattern too many times, so now the FBI needs Dears’ Google account information to unlock the phone.
A warrant application for the information was given to a US Magistrate Judge on March 9, 2012, and approved on the same day. The warrant asks Google to provide a list of information about the phone. The list is:
- The subscriber’s name, address, Social Security number, account login and password
- “All e-mail and personal contact list information on file for cellular telephone”
- The times and duration of every webpage visited
- All text messages sent and received from the phone, including photo and video messages
- Any e-mail addresses or instant messenger accounts used on the phone
- “Verbal and/or written instructions for overriding the ‘pattern lock’ installed on the” phone
- All search terms, Internet history, and GPS data that Google has stored for the phone
So the FBI wants to know just about everything Google has on Dears, or whoever has been using the phone.
It’s not clear if Google routinely gives this sort of information to law enforcement. Presumably with this warrant the FBI might be able to bypass the pattern lock on any other Android smartphone. Average users shouldn’t have to worry about this too much, but if you keep sensitive data on your Android smartphone you may want to look into a new form of security.