It’s Not Data, It’s Discovery: the Digital Snitch In Your Pocket, In Your Car, and In Your Home

A few years ago, I was excitedly telling an attorney friend about the Automatic adapter I’d just purchased for my car.

“It’s amazing! It links to my phone and provides data on fuel consumption, engine health, and even maps out my trips! Just think of all the data,” I said.

“You mean ‘evidence,'” he laughed in response.

I hadn’t thought of it, but my friend was correct. The Automatic adapter is a veritable treasure trove of evidence. And it undoubtedly would be discoverable (and incredibly useful) in the right context.

There is no need to speculate about discoverability in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), however, when there are so many real-world examples. The most famous and widely known case, of course, is that of the Amazon Echo once thought to have stored critical data for a murder investigation. But the case that recalled this conversation to memory was a recent case from Germany, in which Apple Health data was obtained from a sexual assault suspect’s iPhone to corroborate his alleged movements on the day of the attack. At the same time the victim claimed she was being dragged down to a riverbank, the suspect’s Apple Health data showed that he was “climbing stairs,” an activity replicated by the Freiburg police during their investigation.

If Apple Health data can corroborate sexual assault allegations and lead to a measure of justice, it will be difficult to decry its use. Yet that case, and the Amazon Echo case before it, should remind attorneys and their clients that the IoT has ushered in a brave new world. Data exists for almost everything and presents both remarkable challenges and opportunities for discovery.

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Your access to, and engagement with, this website should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. Any legal questions should be directed to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC,  its employees, or its clients. To contact me, please e-mail

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I, Joseph Schaeffer, am solely responsible for the content of this website. My primary office address is located at 48 Donley St., Morgantown, West Virginia, 26501.

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