Unless insurers take that lead, others
may impose over-reaching privacy laws,
regulations and court rulings. The results
could stifle fair and reasonable access to
Data sources expanding
New forms of digital evidence are con-
tinually being developed by our data-rich
society, delving deeper into people’s lives
and creating questions about privacy lim-
its. Courts generally uphold this kind of
data discovery in criminal fraud cases, so
far, as seen in these cases:
• Social-media postings are generally ac-
cessible to fraud investigators — even
behind privacy settings.
• Ross Compton challenged his pace-
maker search as a privacy violation.
The judge allowed the data collection,
calling the probe of his heartbeats, “no
• Recent Fitbit searches have also held up
• Richard Dabate says he found his wife,
Connie, dead and zip-tied to a chair
in their Hartford, Connecticut-area
home. Dabate said an intruder shot her,
but Connie’s Fitbit allegedly recorded
her moving around nearly an hour after the time Dabate said she had been
killed. Prosecutors say he tried to cash
in Connie’s $475,000 life insurance policy just five days after she died. Dabate is
charged with her murder.
More data sources likely will keep
emerging, such as:
•;Telematics. Sensors packed into vehicles
could open up a wider world of vehicle
data before long. Was the driver’s
parked SUV banged up by a hit-and-
run driver two days after the owner
bought auto coverage; or did the acci-
dent happen three days before, when he
•;Wearables. Work vests and other clothing
embedded with sensors can help employers track an employee’s whereabouts and
activities throughout each day. Did that
claimed injury happen at the loading
dock when sensors suggest he was sitting
quietly at a desk?
• Home appliances. Home appliances
and other non-traditional devices
could be fair game as they load up with
A homeowner’s coffee pot brewed java
in his kitchen, even though he said he
was visiting friends across town when his
house caught fire.
Will a garage door reveal a dishonest
claimant’s SUV location and movements?
Will the interactive screen on the refrig-
erator door detail a busy grocery trip by a
workers-comp claimant who insists she’s
immobilized by a painful back injury?
•;Digital assistants. Victor Collins was found
dead in the backyard hot tub of James
Andrew Bates in Bentonville, Ark. Bates
called it an accident. Investigators suspect
Bates drowned Collins, so they subpoenaed data from Bates’ obedient Amazon
Echo digital assistant, “Alexa.” Bates disclosed the data despite privacy and First
Amendment objections from Amazon in
court. This is a murder case, yet it speaks
to the potential for data-mining digital assistants in fraud investigations.
Update privacy efforts
Valuable fraud evidence could be successfully challenged by defense counsel
in insurer lawsuits as improperly obtained. Outdated policy contracts and
privacy notices may not hold up under
Policies. Consumers voluntarily concede certain privacy rights via contract
when they buy insurance policies. The
policy contract defines an insured’s duty
to cooperate, and produce records and
documents. Language such as “duty to
cooperate” or “duties in the event of a
loss” largely defines insurer contractual
access to customer data. Yet virtually no
policies define what that means. Nor do
they reflect the storage and downloading
of digital information from data-rich mobile devices, email, laptops, zip drives, the
cloud and broader Io T.
Privacy notices. Federal law requires
corporations to provide customers with
an annual privacy notice advising how
their personal information will be used.
Yet insurer privacy statements frequently
are very general. Like the policy language,
most privacy notices were written well
before the IoT and big data explosions,
and rarely do they reference using information for fraud investigations.
Thus, the notices typically don’t specify how the insurer will protect today’s
complex new personal data in a digitally
SOME 50 BILLION IOT
DEVICES WILL SILENTLY
CONNECT, SIFT AND
ABOUT PEOPLE’S DAILY
LIVES BY 2020.