Crimebusting Technologies

Amanda Ackermann

Wearable technology has been all the rage in the last couple of years, but this trend has had some surprising consequences. A fitbit has been used to solve a murder case in December of 2015. Richard Dabate recounted a story to police about a masked intruder invading his home and tying him up, torturing him and killing his wife, who was shot while attempting to flee. The investigators gathered the evidence they can, including his wife's fitbit.

Pic of fitbit Pic of Amazon Echo

The results were surprising. Not only was there no home intruder, but the fitbit showed that Dabate's wife walked a total of 1,217 feet during the time they were supposedly attacked. This exceeded the amount that Dabate claimed she would have moved had she been trying to flee an intruder, which was 125 feet. With more collected evidence contradicting his claims, Dabate was charged with murder and arrested (CNN.com).

A fitbit also solved another case in 2015, where a woman told a detective that she was sexually assaulted in the middle of the night, while she was asleep. However, fitbit records indicate that she was walking around during this time, and investigators were able to conclude on her false statements (NYTimes.com).

In Arkansas, Victor Collins, a former cop, is found dead in the hot tub at his friend Andrew Bates' house. Bates claims that Collins overdosed and died from drowning in the tub, but officers were suspicious, believing that Bates may have cleaned up a crime scene. The officers found that Bates had an Amazon Echo near the hot tub, and subpoenaed Amazon to see if they can use the voice recording capabilities of the Echo to figure out what happened. The cops made a statement saying that the Echo has microphones that are constantly recording. Amazon was very resistant to handing over the information, believing it to be a breach of the First Amendment. They claimed that the Echo only started recording when the Echo was requested by using the "wake word", like "Alexa". They do not believe a device made for making people's life easier should be turned against them in court. They made a statement saying:

"Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course." (Cnn.com)
Despite their privacy argument,their protest was overruled when the defendant agreed to hand over the information to the police. The suspect is currently out on bail as the case continues (Chicagotribute.com).

With wearable tech on the rise, law enforcement is looking towards the future for new evidence to bust their cases, though without any precedent in place, it is hard to draw the line for what encroaches on our privacy.


Citations:

More examples of crime and technology:

Crime: Tech:
Suspect accused of killing a classmate, found guilty: World of Warcraft Computer game
Man in Ohio denies committing Arson, found guilty: Pacemaker data
Image credit:
Fitbit Image: Fitbit.com
Amazon Echo: Amazon.com