Police in Lancaster County, Pa., used data from a Fitbit activity tracker to help determine that a 43-year-old woman who filed a report about being attacked in her home while she was sleeping was not telling the truth.
The alleged crime, which was called in to police by the woman on March 10 in East Lampeter Township outside of Lancaster in south central Pennsylvania, involved a report that she had been sexually assaulted by a man who had entered the woman’s home at midnight, according to a June 19 story in LNP newspaper.
Investigating police officers said they found overturned furniture inside the home after they arrived, as well as a knife and bottle of vodka, the story reported. The woman allegedly told police she had been sleeping when the attack occurred. She had described the alleged assailant as in his 30s and wearing boots.
Immediately after the reported attack, police quickly began a manhunt aimed at locating the alleged attacker.
But police officers did not find boot prints in the snow on the ground outside the house as they investigated, the story reported. And further reviews into the woman’s Fitbit activity tracker allegedly found data on it which revealed that she had been “awake and walking” and not sleeping at the time of the alleged attack, the story said.
Once investigators determined that they believed that the attack was unfounded based on the available evidence from the Fitbit and the lack of boot prints, the alleged victim was charged with three misdemeanor counts for prompting the emergency response and manhunt, the story reported. The woman and her attorney recently waived a preliminary hearing on the charges.
A trial or plea agreement is likely to occur in the future in this case, but I bet it won’t be the only time we hear about data from a wearable device being used to investigate and solve a crime.
In fact, this could open quite a can of worms in law enforcement circles. Will incidents like this be seen as a bit of Big Brother by using personal data against a purported victim? Or maybe this is a tool that can be added to police procedures to help solve crimes using real-time data that explains the unexplainable?
Some drivers are already having their driving tracked in their vehicles by insurance companies using special data modules so car insurance companies can track how they operate their motor vehicles and give them discounts for good driving habits. In that case, though, drivers have to opt-in to such tracking.
The fitness tracking data, however, could be different. We could see privacy experts decry the use of such data, while law enforcement officials could defend it as legal and helpful.
Will you think about the data implications on your wearable the next time you wear it?
This will be an interesting situation to watch and track across the nation. Stay tuned.