Since their launch several years ago, phone-finding apps have become indispensable tools for anyone in search of lost electronics. You've likely come across a couple of stories (including my favorite about an orange tree) involving happy people reunited with their phones, iPads, etc. and the crazy ways they tracked them down.
This is not that kind of story.
In fact, this is what happens when you're on the opposite end of a "Find My Phone" expedition and you're completely innocent.
Fusion's Kashmir Hill has a fascinating article on an Atlanta couple who own a home that has become a digital Bermuda Triangle for lost phones. Since February 2015, Christina Lee and Michael Saba have entertained and de-escalated more than a dozen encounters at their residence from both law enforcement and upset phone owners. The real culprit? A quirk in the owners' respective "Find My Phone" apps that labels their home as a virtual "X marks the spot" for the lost device.
“My biggest fear is that someone dangerous or violent is going to visit our house because of this,” Saba told Fusion. “If or when that happens, I doubt our polite explanations are gonna go very far.”
The good news is technology companies have rallied around the couple's plight and are actively searching for a solution. Just kidding. No one is doing anything and, as Hill discovered, the parties that could shed the most light aren't exactly jumping at the opportunity.
Both Saba and I reached out to T-Mobile to see if they could help, but the company never responded. I also reached out to Android-maker Google and iPhone-making Apple to see if they could help. No luck. I called the Federal Communications Commission, the agency in charge of regulating wireless devices; they said this type of problem didn’t fall under their jurisdiction. It seems that shrugs are as contagious as yawns.
So far, the most intriguing suspects range from faulty GPS to wacky WiFi-mapping. As one commenter pointed out over on Ars Technica, it may just be that the mapping for that particular region is corrupted.
"What's probably happening is that GPS coordinates for these 'lost' phones is bad, and the mapping program is throwing up its hands and pointing them to the default location for that ZIP code, which is unfortunately on top of this address," writes Inifinity4011.
According to Fusion, the couple will next file a complaint with the FCC and their state senator. But until a solution is found, the nightmare of disgruntled knocks on their front door will likely continue.