Dug Campbell

Wearable Data in Court

I read with a mix of amusement and concern the story yesterday about the novel way that a Canadian law firm is trying to lead evidence to prove a personal trainer’s claims of injury following a car accident.

The individual’s lawyers have had the bright idea to use Fitbit data as evidence in court (via Vivametrica, an interesting company that analyses data from wearable devices) in order to support their claims that the woman’s injuries have had an negative and enduring effect on her lifestyle.

Hmmm. A notoriously inaccurate early-generation consumer wearable device providing evidence for litigation. It’s up there with hearsay in the reliability stakes, I’d say. Full points for trying but surely one way to game the system in order to ‘prove’ significant impairment of activity if such stringent standards are to be met might be to, I don’t know, leave your Fitbit off for a while? Go out for a jog and leave the bracelet on the bedside table?

This is in no way an attack on Fitbit. I wore one myself for a long time – until the inevitable (for me at least) happened and I lost it when it fell off my arm unnoticed. Of course, we have no reason to believe that the individual isn’t telling the truth in this case but still, I’m not sure it’s the most solid evidence that court will ever have had presented before it.

Of course, that’s not to say that this type of data will be a far more powerful source of proof in the future. I have no doubt that it will be. It just feels a little bit early with the technology that’s out there at the moment.

And amusing whilst this might be, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this is simply the far less serious side of a much more significant issue for us all as our every move is surveilled for a range of reasons, noble or otherwise. We’re rapidly moving into the stage when the personal data that we continue to leave in our trail on a daily basis will increasingly be mined by third parties in order to make decisions that affect us directly, perhaps providing assumptions about your lifestyle and health expectancy for life insurance purposes for example.

We already have companies tracking every move you make via your mobile of course. When the capture and subsequent release of data regarding your vital functions becomes both attractive to others organisations and compellable in a court of law however, we’re into a whole different world.


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