Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Telltale Heart Implant" Gets Guy An Arson Conviction

Investigators used data from a man''s pacemaker to help
convict him of setting this arson fire at his home. 
Seems like everything is watching us nowadays.

Security cameras are everywhere, and all kinds of devices are telling somebody, somewhere what we're doing and what we're thinking.

Here's a new example that has me torn on whether it'singenious or creepy.

Police in Middletown, Ohio used data from an electronic heart device that had been implanted in Ross Compton, 59, to help convict him of arson and insurance fraud, says

It all started with a fire that caused $400,000 in damage to his house and its contents

Authorities had already gotten very suspicious of Compton before they got the data. The fire at his house was clearly arson, as investigators noticed the fire had started in several spots on the exterior of the home.

Police said Compton's stories of what happened the day of the fire were inconsistent, The 911 call he made to report the fire seemed weird, too.

In the 911 call, "an out-of-breath Compton claimed he had 'grabbed a bunch of stuff, threw it out the window.'  He claimed to have packed his suitcases, broken the glass out of a bedroom window with his walking stick, and tossed the suitcases outside," says

Here's where the medical device data comes in. Police obtained a search warrant to look at the data from Compton's pacemaker. Authorities wanted to know "Compton's heart rate, pacer demand ad cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire."

Court documents said, "A cardiologist who reviewed the data determined '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 time period he has indicated due to his medical conditions."

This piece of evidence was among the factors that helped lead to Compton's conviction.

It's still a more than a little spooky, though that authorities are using data from computerized systems to investigate crime. For instance, cars now have data recorders that can be used to determine who was at fault in a crash.

What I worry about is, can people be framed and/or falsely convicted using computer data? It seems easy to hack into data and alter it, and I'm guessing many people might not be able to determine if evidence was falsified or altered through hacking.

We already had a case in Vermont where a school teacher got in big trouble for possessing child porn. 

The teacher had visited a web site with malware that placed child porn on his computer. He didn't know it was there, but investigators found it.

Charges against the teacher were eventually dropped because the guy never willingly looked up child porn and never wanted to see it,  but by then he'd been fired from his job and his reputation was in shambles.

I wonder how often this kind of thing happens?

I guess like anything that involves computers, investigators use data as a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or for bad. The only problem is computer data can be good or bad writ large.  Computer data can either cause great good or great harm.

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