Ohio Arsonist Gets Busted By His Own Pacemaker

from the betrayed-by-my-robot-parts dept

When we talk about pacemakers here at Techdirt, the focus is usually on how the devices have paper-mache grade security, allowing anybody to assassinate the cardiac-challenged with relative ease. In fact we’ve reached the point where the FTC had to recently issue its first ever warning against a pacemaker vendor when it announced that hackers could comprmise pacemakers made by St. Jude Medical, sending “commands to the implanted device, which could result in rapid battery depletion and/or administration of inappropriate pacing or shocks.”

But your pacemaker may just betray you in other ways, too. In Ohio a man was indicted this week on arson and insurance fraud charges after his Pacemaker data contradicted the story he was telling authorities. When the man’s home burned down on September 19, Middletown resident Ross Compton told authorities he quickly packed some belongings in a suitcase and some bags, broke a window with his cane, and quickly fled through the window before carrying his belongings back to the car. The man also acknowledged at the time that he had a pacemaker.

So police obtained a warrant for the data stored on the device, and doctors quickly concluded that the story the man’s heart was telling didn’t match the narrative coming out of his mouth:

“A cardiologist determined that it was “highly improbable,” due to his medical conditions, that Compton could do all the collecting, packing and removal of items from his house and then carry them in the short period of time he indicated, according to court records. Police have said statements they received from Compton were “inconsistent” with the evidence they gathered. They also have said that he gave statements conflicting with what he had told a dispatcher, the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News reported.”

Obviously there are numerous privacy questions at play here, since we’re living in an era when your car, home, phone, and implant data can not only be used to support criminal charges, but will increasingly be used by giant corporations to determine everything from your insurance rates to your qualification for health care. As such, the Electronic Freedom Foundation was quick to warn the AP about the slippery slope of having your own body’s data used against you in such a fashion:

“Stephanie Lacambra, a criminal defense staff attorney with the San Francisco-based foundation, said in an email Tuesday that Americans shouldn’t have to make a choice between health and privacy. “We as a society value our rights to maintain privacy over personal and medical information, and compelling citizens to turn over protected health data to law enforcement erodes those rights,” Lacambra said.”

Internet-of-things devices are not only poorly secured, the privacy policies affixed to most of them are a dumpster fire. So remember folks: the next time you intend to commit a crime or apply for health coverage with a pre-existing condition, remember to wipe the data from all of your cybernetic implants — and get the latest firmware update for your cerebral and coronary firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

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Comments on “Ohio Arsonist Gets Busted By His Own Pacemaker”

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Roger Strong (profile) says:

“People in the media say they must look at the president with a microscope. Now, I don’t mind a microscope, but boy, when they use a proctoscope, that’s going too far.”
– Richard Nixon

Setting aside that IoT medical devices, WikiLeaks and Trump will combine to make this a reality… Assuming that Trump doesn’t just tweet it first…

…Nixon was right. The government also goes too far when it turns that proctoscope in the other direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

NY law* wants to mandate the use of a textalyzer to force analysis of your mobile phone during a traffic stop. Since phones of the future will likely be directly connected to our brains, getting pulled over could mean dumping your conciousness into a LEO storage device. To be fair, self-driving cars will likely also be mandatory by that time so you traffic stops would be obsolete.


Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing to do with the Internet of Things

It doesn’t sound like this was a matter of authorities hoovering up data that people thought was private. The detectives got a warrant for the particular data to be seized and then did that and only that. That is 100% what warrants are for: legal authorization for the authorities to seize something or someone.

Anonymous Coward says:

This seems like a pretty reasonable action by the police, imo. I mean, they got a warrant and properly executed it. And its not like we dont use loads of other kinds of health information in determination of crime. Irrespective of things like accuracy dates (a different issue), its not like we dont have a whole battery of things like drug tests, blood analysis, DNA testing, and all sorts of things. Medical history seems like the kind of thing you really ought to take into account in general, as long as you’re getting a warrant for specific stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Problem here is whether or not the data actually said what the expert witness said it did. Anyone can get up on a stand and point at a graph and say “He didn’t do what he said he did.” It’s quite another one to say “There’s a 1 out of 100 chance that he didn’t do it.” First one is speculation, the second is more scientific if the expert witness can back up his claim with actual data. We should be looking at expert witness testimony with the utmost skepticism these days as a great deal of forensic “science” is turning out to be either pseudoscience (like ear, teeth, or foot prints, and fire patterns) or antiquated and no longer reflect current science theory (fingerprints).

Where does this one fall? Who knows, we don’t have the expert testimony in the article and an independent cardiologist to evaluate the data.

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