Our lives are now becoming more centered around smart devices, from home assistants to fitness trackers. Although these devices have mainly served to be digital assistants or track our workouts, they have also started becoming regular “witnesses” in court. While there are still some moral and legal issues to address when it comes to using smart devices as evidence, it is becoming increasingly apparent that authorities will use everything at their disposal, even smart devices, to get to the truth.
In one particular instance, a Fitbit fitness watch revealed discrepancies in a suspect’s statement. Richard Dabate, husband and suspected murder of the victim, told police a masked intruder had killed his wife and tortured him, but the details he provided didn’t match the Fitbit data. The tracker showed his wife walking 1,217 feet after arriving home while Richard claimed she ran about 125 feet to the basement. The Fitbit also revealed that the victim had been active up until 10 a.m., about an hour after Dabate claimed she was murdered. In a similar case, a victim’s Apple Watch served as a foundational piece of evidence in determining the murder.
Smart devices have also been used to clear defendants of their charges. For example, James Bates had been accusing of killing his best friend until authorities listened to Alexa’s recordings from an Amazon Echo device. The recorded audio, including the fraction of a second before he called the assistant, was enough to clear Bates and convince the judge to dismiss the murder charge. For more details on this case, check out this NPR report.
As useful as these smart devices have been in court cases, there’s still talk about whether they are a form of self-incrimination and therefore, infringing on one’s Fifth Amendment rights. Some argue that this is similar to using an accused’s medical data, which has been determined as a form of self-incrimination and something the law protects against.
What are your thoughts on this matter? We’d love to know!