Can Data from Devices and Apps That Track Your Activity Be Used in Court?
Eating right and getting regular daily exercise are important parts of staying healthy. Fortunately, you can do a number of things to increase your physical activity each day without needing to head to the gym.
Fitting in a walk in the morning or after dinner, using the stairs instead of the elevator and forsaking that parking space near the store entrance for one that requires a hike all are simple ways to add more movement to your routine.
Devices that allow you to track the total number of steps you take each day provide an easy way to keep tabs on your overall progress.
Wearable tracking devices and applications available through your phone have become all the rage with health-conscious consumers. Unfortunately, these apps can also provide evidence that can be used against you in court.
Data from fitness devices that track your location can be used to prove allegations in a criminal case. They may also be used to cast doubts on the extent of any injuries you claim to suffer in an insurance company claim or in a personal injury lawsuit.
Here, we go into more detail about how the geographic data contained within your fitness tracking device could be used against you in a court proceeding.
Fitness Devices and Applications That Track Your Location
Mobile phone applications and wearable fitness tracking devices such as Fitbit, Garmin Vivosmart and the Mio Fuse are an increasingly popular way to monitor the number of steps you take each day. They can also provide you with valuable health information on your heart rate and the number of calories burned while you are engaged in a particular activity.
Digital Trends reports that roughly 275 million wearable fitness tracking devices will be sold this year in the U.S. Millions of more people will also likely download health and fitness apps for their phones.
While these devices provide numerous benefits by allowing you to track your fitness levels, these devices can jeopardize your overall security by tracking all of your movements and whereabouts, leaving an electronic footprint that could compromise your sense of privacy.
According to Digital Trends, fitness tracking devices work by emitting unique codes at regular intervals. Those codes are associated with a particular date and time. They are subject to both interception and tampering for ethical and unethical purposes.
Tracking users’ shopping patterns via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi has become an increasingly common practice in many big box stores. Many have raised concerns about how the information gleaned about consumers through these devices can be sold to advertisers or even subject to security threats by hackers.
The controversy with these devices and apps stems over user privacy rights, which most fitness trackers fail to clearly define. When it comes to using apps in your court case, the information contained within your fitness device may be used against you – by law enforcement as well as by your insurance company.
Fitness Tracker Data Potentially Admissible in Criminal Court Cases
Fitness tracker data could impact criminal law matters. According to a February 2016 Atlanta news report on the legal implications of fitness tracking devices, prosecutors in Florida and Pennsylvania have used geographic information data gleaned from fitness trackers and apps to:
- Prove elements of a crime
- Challenge a defendant’s alibi claim
- Impeach the testimony of witnesses
- Show discrepancies regarding a defendant’s version of events or when the crime actually took place
- Formulate a theory on actions a defendant may have taken to cover up a crime.
As you can see, in any of the above scenarios, the information contained within your fitness tracking device has the potential to either prevent you from being wrongly convicted of a crime or to provide damaging evidence against you in support of a conviction.
How Can Fitness Trackers Be Used in a Personal Injury Case?
In a personal injury claim, your version of events leading to your accident, how your injuries occurred and the extent to which they impact your life can all play a vital role in seeking compensation for your losses.
According to Digital Trends, if you use a device or an app for fitness, insurance companies involved in your claim could access this information and use it to potentially benefit their own interests.
The insurance company can use data from your app in court to dispute your version of how the accident actually occurred as well as the actual amount of harm you have suffered.
In other words, a fitness device or app may be used against you to:
- Dispute where you were before the accident happened, revealing you had stopped at your local bar or tavern prior to a car accident.
- Challenge where an accident actually occurred, showing where you were walking when you suffered a slip and fall injury.
- Undermine your claim about the nature of your injuries, showing that you were out hiking or walking within days of an accident even though you claimed to have suffered serious, potentially disabling injuries.
When you have filed a personal injury claim, it is important to be aware that the insurance company involved will often go to great lengths in an effort to save money by either undervaluing or denying your claim.
Any information that insurance company investigators can gather, including evidence obtained from a fitness device or app, can and will be used against you.
Keep Privacy Concerns in Mind When Using Fitness Devices and Apps
The privacy terms of your fitness device or application may include provisions that prevent the company from selling your personal information to outside sources.
However, if you read the fine print, you will see that these companies would be required to disclose such information to law enforcement officials with a subpoena or search warrant or to the insurance company if it gains permission through a court order.
Of course, the benefits of using a fitness tracker may outweigh the overall risks. Still, it is important to be aware of the impact that these types of devices could have on your case as well as on your privacy.