Did you track your 10,000 steps today? Has anyone else tracked them down?
Fitness trackers are big business, helping people get and stay fit and helping them share their progress with friends and sometimes strangers.
Probably the best known of these devices (and apps) are FitBit and the Apple Watch bundled apps, but they also include Moov Now, Samsung Gear Fit, Huawei Band, Tom Tom Spark, and around 350 more. The ability to map your movements is one of the most fun and attractive features of these devices.
FitBit data helps catch a would-be killer.
Fitness trackers in less joyful circumstances can provide evidence in the most serious cases. In late 2015, Richard Dabate told Connecticut police a story of a break-in in which the thief killed his wife while he was fighting the intruder. The problem was that the records requested from his FitBit showed that she was active an hour after the murder was said to have taken place, and that she walked ten times further than it would have taken her in full view of the now fictitious criminal. . Along with other computer, Facebook and cell phone evidence, and the fact that Dabate had a pregnant girlfriend, he was arrested for the crime. As of this writing, Mr. Dabate is still free on $1 million bail.
FitBit data helps an innocent man walk free
In May 2016, Nicole Vander Heyder left for the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, but never returned home. Her bloodied and naked body was found in a nearby agricultural field. Signs initially pointed to her boyfriend, Doug Detrie, who was arrested but nonetheless seemed shocked by the news and protested his innocence. Detrie was held on $1 million bail, but the apparent evidence (blood in the car, in the garage, and a suspicious stain on the sole of his shoe) did not hold up (the blood in the car was not the victim’s). ). , the blood in the garage was not human, and the suspicious stain was not blood) so he was released. Data from Doug’s FitBit showed that he only took a dozen steps during the time period in which Nicole died.
DNA evidence from Nicole’s clothing pointed to another man, George Burch. Burch’s Android phone had Google Dashboard data associated with his Gmail account showing GPS location data leading directly to Nicole’s home. Ultimately, he was charged, found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison where he still insists he is innocent.
FitBit data used to try to find a missing person
In July 2018, Iowa student Mollie Tibbett went for a run and hasn’t been seen since. Police received her FitBit data from her in an attempt to locate her, but have not disclosed to the public what they found in that data. It seems that the geolocation information there was not enough to find her. Additional data from her cell phone and social media accounts were analyzed for clues to her, but as of August 6, 2018, there are no reports that she has been found, although there appear to be persons of interest. . Hopefully, her FitBit’s location data will eventually help investigators pinpoint her current location.
FitBit data banned by the military
You may have heard news lately that the Army has raised concerns about military movements and security being compromised by data from fitness trackers and devices like the Apple Watch. One military official was quoted as saying, “The moment a soldier puts on a device that can record high-definition audio and video, take pictures, and process and transmit data, they are very likely to be tracked or reveal military information.” . secrets… The use of portable devices with Internet 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 news is from May 2015? And did you know he was a Chinese military officer in the Chinese army newspaper, Liberation Army Daily?
That’s right, some foreign governments have been banning these types of devices for years.
FitBit geolocation data banned by the US military.
In 2013, the DOD distributed 2,500 FitBits to military personnel; In 2015, the Navy planned to run a pilot program to help enlisted men and their superiors track fitness goals and “allow Army leaders to track the fitness of their Soldiers in real time.” .
Aside from military members, Fitbit has a user base of more than 10 million people. Information can be viewed online, on a mobile device, or through the desktop app. Fitbit tracks movement and allows users to record other health information in the app. Fitbit then uses this information to show your progress over time.
A companion app manager, called Strava, helps map and display subscribers’ movement maps using FitBit and other fitness tracking devices. In November 2017, Strava published its Global Heat Map of 3 billion individual global GPS data points uploaded in the previous two years. Zooming in on the maps, as Australian security student Nathan Ruser did, revealed favorite trails used on previously undisclosed bases by military exercise buffs. Traces of heat maps around and in Mogadishu could have provided potential targets of places frequented by military personnel for Somali dissidents.
As you can imagine, on August 7, 2018, the Army banned the use of geolocation features on iPhones, Apple Watch, FitBit, and other fitness trackers with the following directive: “Sure enough, immediately, Department of Defense is prohibited from using geolocation features and functions on and non-government issued devices, applications and services while in locations designated as operational areas.” It has not banned the use or possession of the devices entirely.
The (FitBit) Law of Unintended Consequences
There are three types of unintended consequences (according to Wikipedia)
A Windfall: A positive windfall, such as an accused murderer going free and proven innocent of charges because of your FitBit. Instead of showing the achievement of athletic effort, he showed inaction when the crime would have required a lot of movement, as with Doug Detrie and Nicole Vander Heyder.
An unexpected inconvenience: An unexpected harm that occurs in addition to the intended effect of the policy, such as a FitBit showing an alleged victim of a crime instead of being the perpetrator as with Richard Dabate and his wife.
A perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended, such as when military personnel using a FitBit to track their physical progress are revealed as potential targets for an adversary.
With any luck, none of these occasions will fall in the lives of any of my readers.
Stay fit, follow up, but be aware that you may be revealing more than you intend.