Due to the prevalence of smartphones and cellular devices in our lives, the use of cellular data and information on cell phones is becoming increasingly common in court cases. Experts and investigators use devices and the data stored on them to gather evidence or piece together events. But what exactly is cellular data analysis, and how can it be used in cases?
Cellular data analysis refers to the extraction of phone records, more specifically communication data records (CDRs). CDRs can provide the phone numbers a cellular device called or received during a certain period of time, as well as identify the cell towers used to originate and terminate calls. Therefore, experts can analyze a device’s data and place a suspect or victim’s location in relation to a crime or accident scene. Experts do so by tracing which cell towers were used to make or receive calls and pinpointing a person’s whereabouts from there.
Cellular data analysis is particularly useful in claims of property loss. If your phone is stolen, experts can use cellular data analysis not only to track the location of the phone following the loss, but also the victim’s approximate whereabouts at the time of the loss. However, cellular data analysis can be applied and helpful in other claims as well.
Cellular data provides a footprint for a victim or suspect’s location and cell phone usage. Depending on the time period a set of requested records covers, experts can establish patterns in a person’s behavior, from whereabouts to cell phone usage. When those patterns are broken, it may point to a problem. Perhaps a suspect made a series of unusual calls around the time a crime was committed, or someone involved in a car accident was using a cell phone at the time of the incident. Cellular data analysis could be instrumental in solving cases, or at least determining the series of events leading up to an incident.
However, there are still problems being worked out with methods of cellular data analysis. Some argue that data extracted from cell records may be inaccurate, especially when using a single cell tower to mark a suspect’s location, as this has certain limitations. There’s also the issue of privacy, an issue of growing concern in the age of smartphones and big data; although in criminal cases, it may be argued that a person surrenders their right to data privacy by committing a crime.
Because of these limitations and issues, as well as the ever-advancing nature of technology, experts are constantly working to perfect methods of cellular data analysis, so that cellular data can be used to solve cases and find those responsible for criminal activity.