Have you monitored your 10,000 steps now? Has anyone else tracked them?
Fitness trackers are big business, helping people get and stay fit, and helping them share their progress with friends – and sometimes with strangers.
Possibly the most well-known of these devices (and apps) would be the FitBit and apps paired with the Apple Watch, but also include the Moov Now, Samsung Gear Fit, Huawei Band, Tom Tom Spark, and about 350 others. The ability to map your movements is one of the more fun and attractive features about these devices.
FitBit data helps to catch a potential murderer.
Fitness trackers in less light-hearted circumstances can offer evidence in the most serious of cases. At the end of 2015, Richard Dabate told Connecticut law enforcement a narrative of a break-in where the robber killed his wife while he was fighting off the intruder. The difficulty was that subpoenaed records of her FitBit revealed her active an hour after the murder was said to have taken place, and that she walked ten times farther then what would have taken her into the now-fictional perp’s view. Alongside other pc, Facebook, and phone evidence, and the fact that Dabate had a pregnant girlfriend that he was arrested for the crime. As of this writing, Mr. Dabate remains free on a million dollars bail.
FitBit data helps an innocent man go free
Her bloodied and nude body was found at a farm area nearby. Signs at first pointed to her boyfriend, Doug Detrie, who had been arrested but nonetheless seemed shocked at the information and protested his innocence. Detrie was held on a million-dollar bond, but the apparent evidence (blood in the car, in the garage, and a questionable spot on the sole of his shoe) didn’t hold up (blood in the car was not the victim’sblood in the garage was not a human’s, and the suspicious spot wasn’t blood) so he was released. Data from Doug’s FitBit showed he took only about a dozen measures during the time period in which Nicole died.
DNA evidence from Nicole’s clothes pointed at another man altogether, George Burch. Burch’s Android phone had Google Dashboard data connected with his Gmail account that showed GPS location data leading right to Nicole’s house.
FitBit data used to try to locate a lost person
In July of 2018, Iowa student, Mollie Tibbett went for a run and has not been seen since. Police have obtained her FitBit information in an effort to locate her but have not released what they found in that information to the public. It appears that the geolocation information there was not sufficient to find her. Additional data from her mobile phone and social media accounts has been sifted for clues, but as of August 6, 2018, there are no reports of her being found, although there seem to be people of interest. Hopefully place data from her FitBit will eventually help lead researchers to her current location.
FitBit data banned by the army
You may have heard news reports of late that the Army has expressed concern about military movements and security being compromised by data from fitness trackers and devices like the Apple Watch. A military officer was quoted as saying,”The moment a soldier puts on a system that can record high-definition audio and video, take photos, and process and transmit data, it’s very possible for him or her to be monitored or to reveal military secrets… The use of wearables with Web access, location information, and voice-calling functions should be considered a violation of national security regulations when used by military personnel.” But did you know that this information was from May 2015? And did you know it was a Chinese military official in the Chinese Army paper, the Liberation Army Daily?
That’s right, some foreign governments have been banning such devices for years now.
In 2013, the DOD distributed 2,500 FitBits to military personnel; in 2015 that the Navy planned to conduct a pilot program to help the enlisted and their superiors keep track of fitness goals, and”allow Army leaders to track their Soldiers’ fitness in real time.”
The information is viewable online, on a mobile device, or through the desktop application. Fitbit logs movement and allows users to log additional health data in the app. Fitbit then uses this information to show progress over time.
The manager of a companion program, called Strava, helps to map and display maps of readers’ movement using FitBit and other exercise tracking devices. In November 2017, Strava released their International Heat Map of 3 trillion individual global GPS data points uploaded from the previous two years. Zooming in on the maps, as Australian safety pupil Nathan Ruser did, revealed favored trails used in previously undisclosed bases by military physical fitness buffs. Heat map trails around and in Mogadishu could have provided possible targets of locations frequented by military personnel for Somalian dissidents.
As one may imagine, the Army on August 7, 2018 banned use of geolocation attributes in iPhones, Apple Watch, FitBit and other fitness trackers using the following directive:”Effectively immediately, Defense Department employees are prohibited from using geolocation features and performance on authorities and non-government-issued devices, applications, and services while in locations designated as operational areas.” It has not prohibited the use or possession of the apparatus altogether.
The (FitBit) Law of Unintended Consequences
There are three types of unintended consequences (based on Wikipedia)
As opposed to showing the accomplishment of an athletic endeavor it instead showed inaction once the crime would have demanded much motion, as with Doug Detrie and Nicole Vander Heyder.
An Unexpected drawback: An unexpected detriment happening in addition to the desirable effect of this policy, like a FitBit showing a supposed victim of a crime rather being the perpetrator as with Richard Dabate and his spouse.
A Perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was initially intended, as when military personnel using a FitBit to keep track of their fitness progress reveal themselves as potential targets to an adversary.
With any luck, none of these occasions will fall into lives of any of my readers.
Keep fit, keep track, but be aware that you may be showing more than you intend to.