Fitness Trackers Used as Evidence in Court Raising Privacy Concerns

Fitness trackers have ignited concerns over consumers’ privacy as data from the devices is being used in court cases. The devices capture substantial information about how users spend their time and how their bodies react and perform while they go about their day. Fitness trackers record when the user goes to bed, when they get up, and every heartbeat along the way, some even log GPS coordinates of their users. Attorneys, insurance firms, police, and other authorities are finding this data valuable to their investigations.

Law enforcement agency forensics divisions are already taking clues from cell phones and other electronic devices, so it is just a question of time before all look to wearable fitness trackers as an additional source of data in their investigations.

In a case in Florida, a woman traveled to her boss’s home in Pennsylvania when she called police to report that she had been raped by an unknown suspect. The report showed that police obtained information from her Fitbit Surge device, which showed the woman was awake and walking in the entire evening before the incident and had not gone to bed as she reported. They say the steps recorded on the fitness tracker proved she was awake, staging the crime scene, rather than being asleep and attacked as she claimed. The woman was charged with making a false police report as well as with tampering with evidence.

In another case, a woman in Canada received injuries in an accident over five years before fitness trackers were available. However, her attorney is attempting to enter her Fitbit data into evidence in a personal injury case in order to show that her current activity level is low for someone of her age.

Attorneys expect the debate over the use of fitness tracker data to form a significant part of the continuing litigation over technology and invasion of privacy. They believe that people who are worried about their privacy may want to avoid devices like Fitbit because, in addition to the known tracking capabilities, the wearable devices are also “leaking” data. According to a nonprofit research organization in Canada, only the Apple Watch met its criteria for security and privacy of the nine different devices tested. The other devices allowed third parties, including shopping malls, to track them and to sell that data to insurance companies, law courts, or even potential criminals who have an interest in fitness data.

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