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The Internet of Things: It's Not Just Data Collection, It's Evidence

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Sooner rather than later, your fridge could be connected to your Facebook account. Your toilet could send out tweets. It's the Internet of Things -- the universe of web-connected devices from Fitbits to smart appliances -- and it's becoming more of a reality every day. The IoT, of course, raises a gig or two of legal questions: questions regarding privacy, cybersecurity, transparency, and liability.

But the Internet of Things also provides a wealth of evidence. All that data on your sleep patterns, your thermostat use, and gym schedule can and will be held against you (or your clients) in a court of law. In other words, your smart device is a narc.

The Ever Watching IoT

Most IoT devices collect and communicate an enormous amount of data. Take Nest's smart thermostat, for example. Like all thermostats, it's constantly reading the temperature of the room. Nothing special there. It also notes info from your HVAC system, your local weather, and any temperature change you make. What sets IoT devices like Nest apart from traditional thermostats is that your information is stored, communicated to Nest, to your own devices and to others, including Google.

That information can become important evidence in investigations or lawsuits. Information from Fitbit, for example, has already been used to charge people with crimes. A wearable device, Fitbit measures physical activity and exercise, storing information on your steps, distance traveled, calories burned and even sleep patterns. When Jeannine Risley reported that she'd been sexually assaulted while sleeping, police checked her Fitbit data and found that she'd been up and walk around all night. Whoops.

A Treasure Trove of Data

It's not just false police reports that Fitbit data can speak to, either. When it comes to personal injury claims, disability, or even medical malpractice, wearables like Fitbit can make or break a case. Since they produce a near-constant record of your activity, they're a litigation gold mine. (Of course, evidence from wearables isn't unquestionable. At least one class action asserts that Fitbit's ability to monitor activity is highly overrated.)

As the Internet of Things continues to expand, so too will the sources of potentially material evidence. Xively, a part of LogMeIn, claims to connect 400 million devices, from usual suspects like computers down to individual light switches. The usefulness of that information those devices collect will continue to increase as IoT manufacturers improve their ability to connect device interaction with individuals. Just last Thursday, LogMeIn announced Xively Identity Manager which seeks to link device usage to individuals.

Take a nap? Turn off a light? Turn down the A/C? The Internet of Things knows and it's keeping a record.

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