Mobile Apps

Mobile GPS Apps For Biking

Thieves Use GPS Tracking Apps For Crime

Smart phone apps designed for fitness applications have exploded in popularity. These mobile tracking apps do everything from helping runners determine the proper speed they should be running, golfers find out the yardage to the green, mountain bike riders find local trails and so much more. These mobile GPS apps are helpful, intuitive and many times free for download, creating a very positive user experience. Unfortunately, mobile GPS apps can also share personal GPS data that can help thieves be more efficient in stealing property, as Staffordshire Police learned after investigating over 350 cases of reported bike theft.

According to Staffordshire police investigators, an abnormal number of what would be classified as “high value” bicycles were being reported stolen. These bicycles were somewhat protected in sheds, garages and outbuildings, leading investigators to hypothesize that the thieves knew where the bikes were and specifically targeted them. After interviewing the victims the investigators discovered that they all used some form of mobile GPS app that logged routes traveled and other activity on a real-time website. This GPS tracker device data was shared online where other cyclists could access the routing and locational data. Although the platform was designed to be a positive thing, essentially a social network for cyclists, it also provided bike thieves the opportunity to pinpoint exactly where the valuable bikes were located at all times. Although an investigator stated that the mobile GPS apps and accompanied website offer privacy settings, most users shared routes and posted locational data on other social networking websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Making matters worse, many of the shared routes and maps from the mobile GPS tracking apps identified with precision accuracy specific addresses, making it easy for the bike thieves to locate expensive bicycles. Many times the thieves do not even need to hack into the personal account information of users because the users simply share their personal GPS locational data with the community. The Staffordshire Police Department have reported that over $200,000 worth of bicycle property has been reported stolen in just the last three months in 2012, showing the increased prevalence of cycle theft. Law enforcement investigators recommend that people using mobile GPS tracking apps utilize security and privacy settings as much as possible, and only share personal data with close friends or family members.

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