By Angelica Diaz
It is no secret that the progression of technology moves so quickly and with that, it is difficult to not only keep up the technology itself but also it is hard to have laws keep up with such progression. As the nation has been inspired by recent healthy living trends, many Americans are using fitness trackers and smartphones to help in recording daily activity. Although many use such trackers and apps in order aid in their weight loss or clean living initiatives, very few realize the affect such recording has on their individual rights.
Devices such as Fitbit or smartphones have compatible apps that allow its users’ to track daily activities. Many of these devices track heart rate, location, activity patterns which, to the everyday American, are used to help promote a healthier lifestyle requiring daily goals such as a set number of steps to make in a day and calories to stay within. As of recently, it has become known that such information that these devices track can then be retrieved by law enforcement officials.
During a criminal investigation, many resources are needed in order to properly retrieve the information needed. A new tool law enforcement officials may be leaning on using is retrieving such daily records from fitness trackers in order to either corroborate details such as location or help progress criminal investigations. Using such technology has the potential to speed up proceedings and reduce cost to the already costly and congested justice system. Research has shown, for example, that when used in court such technology may allow an individual to be released with a lower bail or no bail at all. In general, the use of such technology will allow for more information to be provided about an individual and assist in determining what criminals have or have not been committed but also how the courts should move forward in sentencing.
As with all benefits to a new piece of technology, there is always a negative side. The use of daily trackers will raise legal issues concerning individual rights, self-incrimination, and possibly the right to face ones accuser. The questions that are being raised are not solely to be asked of the courts and law enforcement official that intent to use such records, but also the companies collecting such information. Will the available information be accessible through warrant or consent, or both? Is the provided consent going to be retrieved before a crime has been committed through a user agreement provided through companies such as Fitbit or after a suspect has been determined and charged with a crime? Also, does one have a right to refuse the access to such information? Will the refusal act an incrimination of the crimes charged against you?
Technology has the potential to be such a useful tool to everyone using it, specifically speaking, technology has the ability to greatly assist our law enforcement and justice system. If law enforcement officials are looking for tools to help speed up their criminal investigations and do that will precision, using personal daily trackers may be an option. Before simply requesting access to such records, courts must recognize and answer the questions facing such an issue before the piece of technology they once thought would be helpful in turn ends in more mistrials due to violation of rights than convictions.
Student Bio: Angelica is a Content Editor for the Journal of High Technology Law. She is currently a 3L at Suffolk University Law with an area of focus in Juvenile and Family Law. She holds a B.A. in legal Studies from Bay Path University.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.