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When police come to question you as a suspect in a crime, you know the rules: anything you say can be used against you in court. So, you don't say anything. However, your Fitbit may talk loud and clear on your behalf.
For example, earlier this year, Jeannine Risley called the police claiming she had been sexually assaulted while asleep by a "man in his 30s, wearing boots." Instead of searching for and arresting the supposed attacker, police charged Risley with a crime.
Why? Blame her Fitbit.
Jeannine Risley is one of millions of people who have a Fitbit. A Fitbit is an activity tracker that users wear around their wrist. The device measures the user's exercise level, diet, and sleep. Users can download data from the Fitbit onto their smartphones or computers to see how many steps they took, distance traveled, calories burned, and even hours asleep and awake.
Risley was wearing her device on the night of the alleged attack. According to Risley, she lost the Fitbit during her struggles with the assailant, but police were able to find it. With Risley's password and permission, police downloaded the activity data from her Fitbit device.
Surprise, surprise. While Risley claimed to be sleeping all night, the Fitbit data showed she was awake and walking around all night. The Fitbit data along with other forensic evidence showed that Risley may have falsified the rape claim. So, instead of being treated like a victim, Risley was charged with false report to law enforcement, false alarms to public safety, and tampering with evidence.
In the case of Riley v. California, the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that police cannot search digital information on a cell phone without a warrant.
By this logic, police generally cannot access data on electronic devices without a warrant either. However, with a warrant, police will be able to use your Fitbit data (and data from other motion tracking devices) as evidence against you in court. On the flip side, you may be able to use such data to prove an alibi. The biggest disadvantage to relying on activity tracking device data is that it may not be entirely accurate.
Risley's case is not the first time Fitbit data was used in a legal case, and it's likely not to be the last. If the police try to use your Fitbit data against you, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney for help.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.