[author: Doug Austin, Editor of eDiscovery Today]

I do not need to tell you that Internet of Things (IoT) devices are everywhere today. I’m sure many of you are using them and are probably using more than one appliance – I have stopped counting how many appliances we use in our home. My daughter even has her Amazon Echo Dot in her bedroom (because here it seems teenagers spend more than 95% of their time these days).

But how often are they relevant to litigation? Every day and more often,

Inclusion of IoT equipment

IoT devices are non-standard IT devices that connect wirelessly to a network and have the ability to transmit data. These days, many devices meet these criteria. This includes everything from smart bulbs to smart thermostats (like Nest thermostats) to Fitbits and Apple Watches to the Amazon Echos doorbell (for what it’s worth, we have them all in our family). It even includes pacemakers, infotainment systems for cars and shoes where you can press a button to order a pizza (if you think I’re doing the latter, Pizza Hut traded Pie Tops II sneakers a few years ago that did exactly this).

The possibilities are endless when it comes to the potential devices we use, which can connect to the internet today and the number of devices will only increase in the future.

Significance for criminal matters

In terms of their importance with court cases these days, IoT devices are quite important in criminal cases. Here are some examples:

Amazon Echo Devices: In this case, a judge issued a search warrant for all Amazon records from an Echo device at the home of a suspect accused of drowning in a hot tub at his home (those charges were eventually dropped). In this case, a New Hampshire judge asked Amazon to submit audio recordings from an Echo device present in a home where two women were found dead with multiple stab wounds. And, in this case, investigators were seeking to gather data from an Amazon Echo Dot when a woman from Florida died during a brawl with her boyfriend, where she was pushed into the pole by a spear and he was charged with murder.

Fitbit data: In this case, the FitBit records of a murdered woman led Connecticut police to arrest her husband in connection with the death. And, in this case, the victim’s Fitbit recorded a rapid increase in her heart rate before a sudden drop in nothingness, which coincided with her stepfather’s visit to her home captured by surveillance cameras ( which are often Ring cameras these days). A few years ago, 48 hours has even covered a case where the boyfriend of a murdered woman has been cleared of data on his Fitbit, which showed that he was barely moving at the time of the murder, eliminating him as a suspect.

Pacemakers: Even pacemakers may possess data that is disclosable in criminal proceedings. In this case, the suspect was arrested for setting fire to his home, in part because his pacemaker showed considerable activity at one point before the fire when he said he was sleeping, but he was actually throwing away some of his belongings most precious from the window. before the fire.

Importance for civil litigation

We are not yet seeing so many civil cases involving IoT device data disclosure. But it is coming. Earlier this year, I covered the case where a plaintiff was ordered to produce data from his Fitbit to support his claim that a thigh implant had significantly affected his ability to walk long distances . It would certainly not be difficult to see data from pacemakers that will also be used to support or refute injury claims.

Vehicle event loggers are regular sources of data to assess what happened in vehicle collisions. If you have a Tesla, its “Sentry” mode even records video when the car is parked, so you can identify what happens to your car, even if you are far away. For that matter, any activity-recording device – such as Ring cameras, Nest thermostats or even Amazon Echos – can be helpful in determining the “who, what, when, where” of any dispute – civil or criminal.


This is a topic that guarantees more than one post, and I will return to it soon to discuss considerations regarding how IoT device detection is performed and how the data associated with it relates to the current rules of eDiscovery. Regardless, expect to see more examples of criminal and civil litigation involving IoT devices – much more – very soon. It is only a matter of time before they become common sources of intelligence data that need to be addressed.

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