Ottawa Police Say That Find My iPhone & Other Tracking Apps Aren’t Enough For A Search Warrant


Find My iPhone is an Apple developed app that enables users to track their iOS device via GPS. In addition, with the launch of Mac OS X 10.7, users can now also track their Mac.

Well according to Ottawa police, a mobile tracking app like that of Find My iPhone is not enough to knock on a thief’s door.

Ottawa resident Jennifer Buston recently used the app to track her stolen MacBook Air after a break-in this week. However Sgt. James McGarry of the Ottawa police said the app was not enough for a search warrant.

“Just because an app says that this is the location of where a laptop is or where a device is, it doesn’t provide us with the full picture,” said McGarry.

While the app’s search results can be used as evidence, Police still have to conduct their own investigation and examine the crime for additional evidence before being able to issue a search warrant.

I’d say this is an eye-opening explanation from the Ottawa police, as I’m sure many of us (me included) figured we could use Find My iPhone to track down our devices and then immediately inform the police for a quick resolution. I guess not.


[via Metro News]

*Thanks for the tip Tak!


  • That is absolutely absurd. As a resident of Ottawa I’m very disappointed to hear this is the position of our local police force. I fully understand that the following scenario is highly improbable but it is good to know that if I’m ever kidnapped the Ottawa police won’t be able to find me even though my iPhone can point them to the exact location.

  • TomCrown

    The bulk of police officers have little idea of actual law, especially OPP. I wouldn’t hold this statement as gospel.

  • Tenoarman

    So just hire Dexter then

  • DefiningSound

    The police, in this situation, are simply describing what they have experienced with the Canadian court of law. Theft being a federal offense, police do not award themselves with search warrants, they must apply to the federal courts for one. What they are saying (rightly) is that applying for a search warrant with nothing more than a “find my iPhone” ping as evidence, is not going to earn a search warrant from the court. And if it were any other way, I’d have to say that the court is not protecting the rights of citizens.

    Do you know how easy it would be for me to throw an iPhone into my evil ex-wife’s bedroom window and call the cops? Boom, search warrant, federal charges laid, full custody of the children bestowed to myself. Be serious.

  • Paul_1982

    I have to agree the Ottawa police service is the most incompetent one I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with… The recent cell block abuse scandals are just the tip of the iceberg from what I’ve seen…

  • Ari

    I guess you are better off hiring some thugs to break down the door for you and intimidate the thief into giving your phone back.

  • Mikethehoncho

    Thats when you take matters into your own hands

  • Htmlgirl

    It’s the same in Vancouver! My son’s iPod touch was stolen last year and I immediately used the Find my iPhone app to lock it and trace its location, but when I filed the police report she said they couldn’t use that info to physically go and retrieve it.

  • Nick

    That sucks for iPhone users… But for computer users you should use the Witness app. It also takes photos of the theif using the computer as well as screen shots. Hopefully that is ‘the full picture’… The find my iPhone app should do that too.

  • Daniel Lee

    If I know where my phone or laptops are because of “Find My Iphone”, and the police refuse to inquire or make an arrest based on this information.  I mean for fuck sakes verifying the serial # on a laptop can’t take more than 5 mins, I have no problem doing that if a police officer asks to verify my serial # on my devices.  That information has no bearing on my privacy and does not even require the police officer to turn the device on.

    At this point if nothing gets done, I would take the law into my own hands and give a little justice.   What are the robbers going to do, call the police on me ?  That would get the police into the house to verify they stole my stuff in the first place.

  • JMCD23

    Thank you for the only informed post here. This is how our legal system works. This is how our rights protect us from invasive searches. Let police collect as much evidence as they can and allow them to apply for a warrant and have a better chance that way. 

    The objective of our legal system is not only to charge and punish the wrongdoers, but more importantly that it protects those that have not committed a crime. If the police barged into every house because of what some APP says so, we would have a whole slew of problems that would follow involving breaches of privacy, trespassing and unlawful arrests.

  • Samveritas

    Time for Ottawa to get a new police force

  • Vikram662

    Well, I guess it’s the baseball bat then.

  • Ex



  • Chris Erskine

    they did this in edmonton knock knock the girls find my iPhone app lead us here

  • GrandMasterFlash

    Journalism requires one to answer the 5 Ws and 1 H questions in articles. This article left out many including the important Why. Thanks to this reader some gaps have been filled in. thank you @DefiningSound

  • GrandMasterFlash

    What if you just sold your laptop to someone? Prove to me that serial number is yours then. Robbers can shoot your ass is what they can do…just sayin.

  • The position of police is not clear to me at all, it is at least inadequate. I wonder what further investigations of mobile tracking evidence are based on. It’s absurd.

  • ChouettePants

    Hey there, I got my phone stolen in Edmonton too, got stolen, have camera footage, and phone was located twice at same location and police still refuses to investigate. How did you convince them to do that?