Caltopo App/"Real Time Tracking

applegarth1630's Avatar


17 Jun, 2020 12:57 AM

We often use the Caltopo app for real time tacking when we have good cell service.
My question relates to our evidence searches, and often some of us find ourselves testifying in court answering questions that we least expect to answer. Here is the question: Can a track in SARTopo coming from our cell phone (a track created by the Caltopo app) be identify with a certain cell phone. Let me try to ask the question in a different way. If I have a track in SARTopo coming from John Smith’s cell phone can that be proven in court that it came from his phone.
This may sound like a strange question but often lawyers try to introduce doubt as the accuracy of the track, how it was obtained, and who produced the track.
I hope this makes some kind of sense.

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Ben Lantow on 17 Jun, 2020 05:29 AM

    Ben Lantow's Avatar

    I'm chatting with a few on the development team. The answer is most likely yes based on server logs and IDs however, I need to confirm that definitively. Give me a couple days to hash this out and I'll get back to you.


  2. 2 Posted by adeangelo101 on 01 Sep, 2020 08:58 PM

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    Good Afternoon Ben,
         Were you able to determine an answer to this question? One of our county officials just asked us the same question, just in case something goes to court.

  3. Support Staff 3 Posted by Ben Lantow on 01 Sep, 2020 09:28 PM

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    So sorry for the delay I assigned the ticket to me and it didn't show up in my queue for some reason.

    So the answer is maybe. I cannot give you a definitive concrete yes. We can pull apart the server logs to demonstrate the route that data took, however if they are very old logs we may have to recover them from the backups, and look at those logs. Which is the technical way of saying most likely yes, but it would be extremely time consuming to do so (especially in cases of much older data). We would have to charge the county for the time an engineer would spend putting that information together.

    The more recent tracks and objects most likely do have a user ID attached to them (who created them) but there would still be time and effort in validating them. And there are a couple loopholes there, if user 1 uploaded a log from user 2 it would appear as though user 2 was the owner of that track.

    So in summary: we couldn't "prove" but we could provide a degree of confidence estimate based on pulling back ups and auditing logs that a track came from a device, user, or date and time, but that work would be billed to the entity requesting it.

    Of note, we support our SAR and LEO teams and want to be as helpful as possible, but we also have an obligation to all our users. Since this would be considered user data and contains geographic information about those users, we'd need to have a clear court order (such as a subpoena) to be able to provide the information and responding to that would be costly and take time.

    I hope that answers the question, there's a little bit of ambiguity based on how the track is actually recorded and placed on the map.


  4. Ben Lantow closed this discussion on 01 Sep, 2020 09:28 PM.

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