"Find My Phone" Apps Tag Wrong Location, Doesn't Find Phone

It almost sounds like an episode for a "truth is stranger than fiction" TV show. A young couple living in a suburb in Atlanta regularly get disturbed, sometimes even threatened, by people, including the police, insisting that their lost or stolen smartphone is in the house. At one point, they even came looking for the girl who owned a lost smartphone. The lost items came from all types of manufacturers under different carriers. The only thing they all have in common is that they used so called "find my phone" apps to locate their missing beloved mobile.

The ubiquity of smartphone theft has made some a bit smarter with their devices. Some enable encryption while others activate features that help them track lost or stolen smartphones. Or at least they thought so. As they and the couple, a certain Christina Lee and Michael Saba, found out for themselves, they don't always deliver on that promise.

No one has really been able to explain the couple's case, though it is definitely not the first one. Some have ended up with damages to property or to persons. One case was due to a carrier's misconfiguration. In this case, however, too many carriers are involved to point to a single culprit. You'd almost think that their house was the Bermuda Triangle of lost smartphones.

Apps like these rely on several sources of data, falling back on a lower, less accurate source when needed. At the top you have GPS, which is usually the most accurate but not always available. Right below that is cellular tower triangulation, which is commonly the source of error. When that's not available, Wi-Fi connection history is then used. And finally, IP addresses, which is the most common but also the least reliable.

The couple are increasingly worried about the situation. In just the first three weeks of 2016, they've already gotten two visits. Given how some people get to be a tad violent when their smartphones are involved, and indeed there have been cases already, there is good reason to be worried. Sadly, neither the authorities nor the companies involved seem to be taking much notice, let alone action. Hopefully it won't be too late when they do.

VIA: Fusion