“Hey Google, could you be used against me in court?”

By Cameron Abbott and Allison Wallace

Smart home devices like the Google Home and Amazon Echo were popular gifts this past Christmas – just like Fitbits have been the Christmases past.

But could these smart devices that we rely on to seek out and relay information to us, turn on our favourite music, or count our calories and steps, be used to produce evidence against us, if we were to commit a crime?

Last month, we blogged about Fitbit data inadvertently revealing the locations of secret US military bases in the Middle East. Now, experts believe the personal data recorded and collected by these smart devices will increasingly find its way into Australian courts – as it already has done in the US.

University of New South Wales law professor Michael Legg told the ABC he believes that “the only real barrier is the creativity of the lawyers and .. possibly the cost to be able to access it”.

It’s certainly not Google or Amazon’s policy to release personal data recorded by their devices, but under a subpoena, they may not have a choice.

In America, one man’s Fitbit data disproved his claim that he woke to his house on fire, and fled – the Fitbit showed he had engaged in heavy labour (including removing items from his home), and so his insurance claim was thrown out.

In a more extreme case out of the US, a judge in Arkansas dismissed a murder charge, partially based on recordings caught by an Amazon Echo speaker, and the step-counter on the accused’s iPhone. You can read more about that here.

We’re already used to Facebook, Twitter, Google and the like using our digital footprint to learn things about us, and to exploit that information. Hercule Poirot had best start getting his head around these digital footprints!

Copyright © 2024, K&L Gates LLP. All Rights Reserved.