Are fitness gadgets the new lie detector tests?
The Wall Street Journal reports that a criminal case in Pennsylvania was recently dismissed after police discovered new evidence on a Fitbit wristband. Jeannine M. Risley, 44, called 911 last year claiming that she had been raped in the middle of the night by an unidentified male intruder in her home.
One officer who responded to the call asked Risley for permission to take a Fitbit he noticed on the floor. She obliged, and as it turns out, doing so turned the case against Risley.
According to the data on the Fitbit, Risley had been awake and walking around during the time she claimed to be asleep in bed. Whoops!
Per the affidavit:
“The information collected from the fit bit [sic] device showed that Nina was awake and walking around the entire night prior to the incident and did not go to bed as reported. The Fitbit shows activity up until the time of the call and then again only when it is collected by your Affiant. That based on the above and additional evidence your Affiant believes that the Defendant Nina Risley was not raped as reported and fabricated the entire incident.”
Additionally, there was no evidence of footprints leading to the scene — despite the fact that the yard was covered in snow.
The findings led a judge to order Risley to complete two years of probation and 100 hours of community service for the charges of reporting a false alarm, tampering with physical evidence, and making a false report — though, as a first-time offender, her record will be cleared on the condition that she complies entirely.
Whereas the accuracy of traditional polygraph tests has long been questioned — anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean someone is lying or telling the truth — the sole purpose of a Fitbit or similar fitness tool is to record activity levels. It’s interesting to see it being applied in a crime investigation.
Fitbit could have a brand-new fan base of law-enforcement professionals on its hands. Though it may lose some current customers as well — namely, those who break the law and aren’t keen on being proved guilty.