Fitbit, fun, forensics and enemies
Have you tracked your 10,000 steps today? Has anyone else tracked them down?
Fitness trackers are big business, they help people get and stay fit, and they help them share their progress with friends and sometimes strangers.
Probably the best known of these devices (and apps) are FitBit and the apps paired with the Apple Watch, 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 funniest and most engaging features of these devices.
FitBit data helps catch a potential killer.
Fitness trackers in less joyous circumstances can provide evidence in the most severe cases. In late 2015, Richard Dabate told Connecticut police the story of a robbery in which the thief killed his wife while fighting the intruder. The problem was, the cited logs from her FitBit showed her active one hour after the murder was said to have taken place, and that she was walking ten times as far as she would have been in sight of the now fictitious offender. 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 with a million dollar lease.
FitBit data helps an innocent man break free
In May 2016, Nicole Vander Heyder went out to the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, but never returned home. His naked and bloody body was found in a nearby agricultural field. At first, the signs pointed to her boyfriend, Doug Detrie, who was arrested but nevertheless seemed shocked by the news and protested his innocence. Detrie was taken into custody on a million dollar bond, but the apparent evidence (blood on the car, in the garage, and a suspicious stain on the sole of his shoe) did not hold up (the blood on the car was not that of the victim). , the blood in the garage was not from a human, and the suspect spot was not blood) so he was released. Doug’s FitBit data showed that he only took about a dozen steps during the time period that Nicole died.
DNA evidence from Nicole’s clothing pointed to another man, George Burch. Burch’s Android phone had Google Dashboard data associated with her Gmail account showing GPS location data that led 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 has not been seen since. Police have received her data from FitBit 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 it contains was not enough to find it. Additional data from her cell phone and social media accounts has been examined for clues, but as of August 6, 2018, there are no reports that she has been found, although there appear to be persons of interest. Hopefully, your FitBit’s location data will eventually help lead researchers to your current location.
FitBit data banned by the military
You may have heard news of late 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 officer was quoted as saying: “The moment a soldier puts on a device that can record high definition audio and video, take photos, and process and transmit data, it is quite possible that he will be tracked down or revealed by military secrets .. The use of portable devices with Internet access, location information, and voice calling features should be considered a violation of national security regulations when used by military personnel. ” But did you know that this news was from May 2015? And did you know that it was about a Chinese military officer in the Chinese army newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily?
That’s right, some foreign governments have been banning these kinds of devices for years.
FitBit geolocation data banned by the US military.
In 2013, 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 physical fitness goals, and “allow Army leaders to track the physical condition 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 application. Fitbit records movement and allows users to record other health information in the app. Fitbit then uses this information to show progress over time.
The manager of a companion app, called Strava, helps to map and display subscriber movement maps using FitBit and other fitness tracker devices. In November 2017, Strava published its global heatmap of 3 trillion individual global GPS data points uploaded from the previous two years. By zooming in on the maps, as Australian security student Nathan Ruser did, favorite trails used on bases previously undisclosed by military fitness fans were revealed. The heat map trails 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 activity trackers with the following directive: “Effective immediately, Department of Defense personnel have prohibited from using government geolocation features and functions and non-government-issued devices, applications and services while in locations designated as operational areas. ” It has not completely prohibited the use or possession of the devices.
The (FitBit) law of unintended consequences
There are three types of unintended consequences (according to Wikipedia)
Windfall: A positive windfall, such as an accused murderer being found innocent of the charges because of his FitBit. Rather than show the achievement of athletic endeavor, he displayed inaction when crime would have required a lot of movement, as with Doug Detrie and Nicole Vander Heyder.
An unexpected downside: an unexpected detriment that occurs in addition to the intended effect of the policy, such as a FitBit showing an alleged victim of a crime rather than being the perpetrator as with Richard Dabate and his wife.
A wicked result – A wicked effect contrary to what was originally intended, such as when military personnel using a FitBit to track their physical progress reveal themselves as a potential target for an adversary.
Hopefully, none of these occasions will fall in the lives of any of my readers.
Stay in shape, keep a log, but keep in mind that you may be revealing more than you intended.