When our devices provide incriminating evidence: Part I

In an internet-connected world, our lives are more convenient than ever before. But that convenience often comes at the cost of privacy. Electronic devices collect, store and sometimes share personal information about us without our knowledge.

Much of the time, trading away privacy for convenience is worthwhile. Much of our data isn't all that exciting anyway. But there are times when the electronic devices we interact with every day share more information than we want them to. In some cases, that information can become evidence in a criminal case.

Consider a case from late 2015. A 57-year-old Florida woman was arrested for allegedly fleeing the scene of two hit-and-run collisions that occurred on the same day. According to news sources, she first struck a truck, and later crashed into a van.

What the woman may not have realized is that her car had an emergency assistance feature built into it. When the crashes occurred, the vehicle recorded the time and GPS coordinates of the collisions. It then automatically called 911 to let dispatchers know that the driver had been in a crash (the GPS info, time and model of the car were all relayed in the 911 call.

This technology could be life-saving if a driver is debilitated in a crash and cannot call for emergency help. But in this case, it was far more of a hindrance than a help to the driver.

The woman allegedly denied being involved in any accidents, and said she would "never" flee the scene of an accident. But because her vehicle told a different story, the woman was arrested and charged.

Check back as we continue this discussion in our next post.

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