Our technology is tracking us, and this location data can be a major factor in many types of investigations. Given the connected world we live in, people may not be aware of the fact that everything they do, and nearly everywhere they go, their phones or devices can potentially track it. Unless someone is willing to forgo technology altogether, they will almost certainly be creating location data that can be utilized as evidence.

Not only do our devices record more information about our location history, but they are also recording more kinds of location data. The sources of location information are no longer reserved for GPS units and phone records. Your mobile phone is recording your location activity so it can act as a personal assistant, able to inform you when traffic is heavy when it predicts you’re about to leave for work. Your digital camera includes geolocation coordinates in the metadata of the pictures you take. The infotainment system in your car can be recording where you go, even if you have no location set for navigation. And this is only scratching the surface.

Given the breadth of location evidence sources, and the depth of complexity for each individual source, our digital forensics division has a dedicated team of certified experts who specialize in location forensics.

 

Cellular Location Analysis

Despite the increased prevalence of call detail records being used in cases, both for determining historic location (or CSLI -Cell Site Location Information), or user activity, many are still unaware of how valuable this information can be in litigation or investigative matters.

What is a Call Detail Record?

A call detail record contains transactions between a cell phone and the wireless phone network. These transactions are automatically collected by the wireless phone company’s equipment and stored for a period of time, anywhere from a few months to years, depending on the wireless company’s policies.

The fact that call detail records are created as the result of the customer’s phone using the wireless phone company’s network provides legal proof that the service (voice, data, and text) is being provided. This means that if you call the wireless company and complain about not getting any service, they will pull your call detail records to see if that is actually the case.

Each call detail record contains technical details about each transaction your phone has with the wireless phone company’s network, such as the date and time of the phone call or text message. Each record may also contain the starting and ending cell tower used for a phone call and, in some cases, text messages and data sessions.

How Call Detail Records Are Used

Determining Historic Location

Call detail records can contain the cell tower used for a phone call and in some cases, text messages and even data transmissions. This associates a phone call/text with a cell tower location. By associating the activity with a cell tower, it is possible to determine an approximate location. This location information is often used in the establishment or discrediting of an alibi. However, beware that each type of transaction, voice, data, or text, may have different timestamps, and location information that is or is not reliable. You need an expert to assist you through that process.

Show “User” Activity

Determining user activity in a distracted driving accident is becoming an increasingly hot topic, both in civil and criminal cases arising from motor vehicle accidents.

Compared to a cell phone, call detail records have a limited set of information. This makes them easier for legal counsel to obtain. While a cell phone will tell you more, call detail records can still tell you a great deal of information related to voice calls, call forwarding, and text message and data transactions for particular service providers.

How to Get Call Detail Records

Call detail records can be obtained via subpoena to the wireless phone company. Example subpoena language can be found in our Digital Forensics Resource Packet. This guide also informs you what to expect to receive from different providers, be it Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, Metro PCS, or others.

There is an increased prevalence of Call Detail Records (CDRs) used in legal cases to determine the historical location and user activity of a person of interest. Despite this, many are not be fully aware of how this information can make or break a litigated case or investigative matter. This type of evidence needs to withstand all forms of scrutiny, and choosing the proper expert is vital. Our cell phone location experts have worked on numerous, well-known, high-profile legal cases and are here to answer any questions, provide a thorough analysis, and help you uncover the truth.

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Digital Forensics Experts

Hawk PI’s digital forensics experts ensure that no stone goes unturned. We can assist in any phase of the digital forensics examination and have the forensic technology, certifications, and experience to provide the best outcomes for our clients, regardless of the amount or variety of data sources and the trajectory of the case.

No matter what, our experts treat every case like it will go to court.