The people come to the house and demand their lost phone back from this couple probably because of some error in phone-finding apps

Christina Lee and Michael Saba were a happy couple living together in the suburbs of Atlanta. But, from February 2015 onwards their lives were made a misery. On day 1, an angry family member knocked at their door demanding their phone back. Then this became the norm as two months later some friends also demanded their stolen phone back.

The other month, the same thing occurred four times. Then things became a bit scary as visitors started showing up with police officials and always asked for their mobile phone. It turned out that all the people had installed phone-tracking apps, which informed them that their lost phones were located in Lee and Saba’s house.

The house where the magic happens / Image Source: Fusion
The house where the magic happens / Image Source: Fusion

What’s even more, disturbing is that Lee and Saba didn’t have any idea about the phones at all. There is definitely some problem with the phone-tracking apps. Some people believed them some didn’t.

In an email to Fusion, Saba informed about the couple’s worst nightmare.

“My biggest fear is that someone dangerous or violent is going to visit our house because of this. If or when that happens, I doubt our polite explanations are gonna go very far. 

People certainly get desperate when their gadgets go missing but what if it isn’t a gadget but a person that’s missing? This also happened with Lee and Saba. In June 2015, the cops came looking for a teen girl who was reported as missing by her parents. The couple had to sit outside for over an hour while the police decided if a warrant for searching the house was needed or not. Saba meanwhile, wasn’t even allowed to use his home’s bathroom.

christina-lee-and-michael-saba
Michael Saba and Christina Lee / Image Source: Fusion

The officer replied:

“Your house is a crime scene and you two are persons of interest.”

The couple is in their 20s and blames the faulty Find My iPhone app for all their woes. Lee is a journalist while Saba is an engineer. Saba stated that:

“It really drives home how unsafe and fallible some of this technological evidence is.”

In 2011, Wayne Dobson also started getting visitors to his home in Las Vegas seeking missing phones as well as visits from the police using similar technology to locate emergency calls made from mobile devices.

There is nothing in common between the missing phones because some are Androids whereas some are iPhones. The carriers are different as well and happen to be AT&T, BOOST Mobile, T-Mobile, and Sprint, etc. Saba and Lee also cannot find a guilty party and the complaint they filed with the local police couldn’t help much. In 2016, they have been visited by phone seekers twice already.

According to security analyst Ken Westin, geolocation tech like the one used in phone tracking apps usually inspects the GPS data of the lost phone first, which depends upon the satellites. Then these scrutinize the cell towers with which the lost mobile was last connected and the WiFi fingerprints, which are determined according to the WiFi networks maps that are created by firms like Skyhook. Lastly, these apps look for the IP address, which is supposedly the least accurate. Westin believes that it could be a cell tower triangulation flaw.

Near Saba and Lee’s home three cell towers are located and the closest one are a T-Mobile tower. The couple consulted T-Mobile for help but the company didn’t respond. Same thing happened when Apple was reached.

Westing says that:

“We rely on these tools and this data but we do so blindly. Technology is not perfect. Law enforcement can rely on it and be wrong.”

According to Help-My-Tech’s Don Lekei, the problem could be caused by the fact that the lost phones were being located using IP address mapping or WiFi. Lekei believes if the apps are using WiFi map then the couple’s misconfigured router could be the real culprit because it might be broadcasting an entirely different location. Saba says that he did reset the router at one point and change the broadcasting frequency but it didn’t help either.

The iPhone forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski stated that the problem could be that the find-my-phone app might be relying on the same WiFi mapping data or data licensed from one company.

That company, says

“Zdziarski could have had bad data in the database, either someone using the same MAC address at a different location or just bad GPS data.”

Now Saba and Lee are planning to file a complaint with their senator and FCC.

Ryan De Souza

Ryan is a London-based member of the HackRead's Editorial team. A graduate of Maths and physics with a passion for geopolitics and human rights. Ryan places integrity at the pinnacle of successful journalism and believes this is somewhat lacking in traditional media. Ryan is an educator who balances his time between family, social activism and humanitarian causes and his vice is Football and cars.