No matter how thoroughly you delete an item from a computer, unless you take extreme measures, you can’t be truly sure that the item has actually been erased and can’t be recovered.
The same is true of the iPhone. Even though you’ve deleted or shut down your iPhone, or closed an application, the iPhone may still save and record information about where you’ve been and where you’ve gone, and what webpages you’ve visited or emails you’ve received.
As The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
“When someone tells me they have an iPhone in a case, I say, ‘Yeah!’ I can do tons with an iPhone,” said Fazio, who works in the sheriff’s department high-tech crimes unit.
The iPhones generally store more data than other high-end phones — and investigators such as Fazio frequently can tap in to that information for evidence.
And while some phone users routinely delete information from their devices, that step is seldom as final as it seems.
“When you hit the delete button, it’s never really deleted,” Fazio said.
The devices can help police learn where you’ve been, what you were doing there and whether you’ve got something to hide.
The problem with a phone is that it is normally seized at the time the person is placed into custody. And, given that it has been seized, police may argue that they have reason to search the item. Any information captured on the iPhone, including old text messages, old files, old emails, old photographs and so forth would end-up in the hands of the police.
As phones become more like sophisticated computers, it may be that police regard them as repositories that they may search even though in the past such data would ordinarily require a search warrant.