Fitbit, fun, forensics and enemies

Have you tracked your 10,000 steps today? Has anyone else tracked them down?

Fitness trackers are big business, helping people get and stay in shape 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 others. 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 joyous circumstances can provide evidence in the most serious cases. In late 2015, Richard Dabate told Connecticut police the story of a break-in in which the robber killed his wife while fighting the intruder. The problem was that the requested records 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 as far as it would have taken her within sight of the now fictional 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 out on a million dollar bail.

FitBit data helps innocent man walk free

In May 2016, Nicole Vander Heyder went out to the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, but never came home. Her bloodied and naked body was found in a nearby agricultural field. The signs initially pointed to her boyfriend, Doug Detrie, who was arrested but nevertheless 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) for which he was released. Doug’s FitBit data 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, convicted 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 it. Additional data from her cell phone and social media accounts of hers was analyzed for leads on 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, the location data from her FitBit will eventually help researchers get to 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. A military official was quoted as saying: “The moment a soldier puts on a device that can record high-definition video and audio, take photos, and process and transmit data, it is very possible that he will 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 that 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 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 enlistees and their superiors track fitness goals and “allow Army leaders to track the fitness of their Soldiers in real time.” .

Outside of military members, Fitbit has a user base of over 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.

The manager of a companion app, called Strava, helps map and display subscribers’ motion maps using FitBit and other fitness tracking devices. In November 2017, Strava published its Global Heat Map of 3 trillion 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 at previously undisclosed bases by military exercise buffs. Heat map traces around and in Mogadishu could have provided potential targets of military hangouts for Somali dissidents.

As you might 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: “Effective immediately, Department of Defense personnel You are 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 prohibited 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 the charges because of his FitBit. Instead of showing the accomplishment of an 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 drawback: An unexpected detriment that occurs in addition to the intended effect of the policy, such as a FitBit showing an alleged victim of crime instead of 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 wearing a FitBit to track their fitness progress reveal themselves as potential targets for an adversary.

With any luck, none of these occasions will fall into the lives of any of my readers.

Stay in shape, keep track, but be aware that you may be revealing more than you intend.

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