There are cases, though, where Apple's location services are very helpful. Hackney's Robbery Squad of the London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), for instance, strongly recommends owners of Apple products to install the application, it said in March last year. The squad has successfully used the app to trace stolen phones, and on one occasion located a stolen device within the hour of the offence being reported.
When someone got robbed in a tube station, the victim logged into his iCloud account on an officer's iPhone. The phone picked up a signal and officers were able to follow the signal, arresting a suspect after he was identified, recovering the stolen iPhone, the MPS said.
The MPS was also able to use the app to successfully return a stolen Mac to its owner, it said. In this case, the victim's computer got stolen when he was walking down the street. Officers used their mobile phones to track the property which was found at ten-minute walk nearby. The suspect was located, arrested and later charged with robbery, the MPS said.
"If in the unlikely event you are a victim of crime, this app can greatly enhance the chances of us recovering your property and arresting the perpetrator," Collin Hill, from the MPS's Hackney's Robbery Squad, said at the time.
An MPS spokeswoman could not say on Monday whether the number of recovered stolen Apple devices has risen since then. The MPS does not gather specific statistics about this, she said.
Using location-detection services like Apple's can cause problems too, however. A 59-year-old retiree in North Las Vegas said he was wrongly accused of several phone robberies during the past two years when a glitch in a tracking service from Sprint led owners to his door, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported in January. This caused many angry people to turn up at his house, demanding their phones back, and has forced him to put a sign on the front of his house telling people he does not have their phones, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Van den Houten's iMac was taken offline by the robbers and she can't see its current location on the map anymore, she said. But she hoped that the machine will come online again. Before it was taken offline though, she set her Mac up to display a message to the robbers: "In as many languages as possible it says: Dirty work-shy scum."
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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