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Security & privacy

Your pacemaker data can be used against you

More than 3 million people worldwide rely on pacemakers to keep their hearts beating regularly. You might even know someone who has one of these devices implanted in their chest.

But did you ever think that these life-saving pacemakers could be used against you in court? It’s true. A judge in Ohio just set the precedence.

How pacemaker data is being used in court

We’re talking about a 59-year-old Ohio man, Ross Compton. He was indicted earlier this year on felony charges of aggravated arson and insurance fraud. His house went up in flames last September and the fire caused around $400,000 in damage.

Compton told police that he woke up in the middle of the night and realized there was a fire. He then packed a couple bags, broke a window, and threw the bags along with his cane out of it before exiting the house.

Police requested a search warrant to investigate all of Compton’s electronic equipment stored in the house. This included data taken from his pacemaker such as heart rate, cardiac rhythms, and pacer demand both during and after the blaze. Detectives allege that Compton’s story doesn’t match with the data.

A cardiologist provided a statement to the court, “It is highly improbable Mr. Compton would have been able to collect, pack and remove the number of items from the house, exit his bedroom window and carry numerous large and heavy items to the front of his residence during the short period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions.”

This week, a hearing was held to determine if the evidence provided from the pacemaker could be used in court. The prosecution argued that pacemaker data should be admissible like all other health records and blood samples.

The defense argued that this evidence should be thrown out, that the search violated Compton’s constitutional rights. His lawyer said, “It is just fundamentally unfair to say to a person the functioning of your body and the record of it related to illness that you have…is something that the government should then be able to take and use to incriminate a person.”

The judge sided with the prosecution. Judge Charles Pater said, “There is a lot of other information about things that may characterize the inside of my body that I would much prefer to keep private rather than how my heart is beating. It is just not that big of a deal.”

It’s thought that this is the first case where an embedded medical device’s data will be used in court. Most likely it won’t be the last.

What do you think? Should data collected from embedded medical devices be allowed as evidence in court? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts.

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