"We followed up on the rideshare and that was the lead that we needed..."
Data from Uber helped land actor Jussie Smollett in jail.
On Wednesday, Chicago police officially charged Smollett, an actor with a role on the hit Fox series “Empire,” with filing a false police report, a felony crime.
If you haven’t been following this bizarre case, around 2 am on Jan. 29, Smollett filed a police report in which he claimed to be the victim of a heinous hate crime.
According to Smollett, two men beat him, placed a noose around his neck, and poured what appeared to be bleach on him, all while yelling racial and homophobic slurs at the openly gay, African-American actor.
From surveillance footage recorded around the time and location of the incident, authorities knew the two suspected attackers had used an Uber.
“We followed up on the rideshare and that was the lead that we needed in order to identify the two persons of interest,” Chicago police commander Edward Wodnicki said during Thursday’s press conference, according to CNET.
Once they had the suspects’ names, the authorities were able to bring them in for questioning. From there, they pieced together what they believe is the real story of what happened on Jan. 29: Smollett hired the men to fake the attack.
Smollett is now out on bail and is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. However, he’s already faced backlash from the public, celebrities, and even President Donald Trump in the wake of Wednesday’s charges. And on Friday, “Empire” announced plans to cut all his character’s scenes from the remaining two episodes of its current season.
However this strange series of events plays out, it’s a striking example of the growing role technology is playing in the legal system.
Authorities’ case against Smollett hinged on rideshare data, text messages, and surveillance footage, and as society becomes even more connected to tech in the future, we can expect lawbreakers will have a harder time getting away with their crimes thanks to these digital fingerprints.
More on Uber data: Uber Releases a Staggering 2 Billion Trips-Worth of Traffic Data