by Josie Wales
An Ohio man pleaded not guilty to arson charges Tuesday after police arrested him, in part, based on information obtained from the man’s pacemaker. According to officials, 59-year-old Ross Compton stands accused of burning his home down on September 15 and faces charges of aggravated arson and insurance fraud.
Police say they obtained a warrant to search all electronic information stored on Compton’s pacemaker when he gave statements that were not consistent with the evidence found at the fire. He told authorities that “he packed belongings when he saw the fire, threw them out of a window and carried them to his car.” According to court documents, a cardiologist who reviewed the data on the pacemaker 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 period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions.”
The case raises the issue of privacy rights with regard to sensitive medical data. Electronic Frontier Foundation Criminal Defense Staff Attorney Stephanie Lacambra is concerned that technological advancements will lead to a loss of individual privacy, with this case setting a dangerous precedent.“Cases like this could be the canary in the coal mine concerning the larger privacy implications of using a person’s medical data,” she told SC Media.
As Lacambra went to point out:
“Americans shouldn’t have to make a choice between health and privacy. We as a society value our rights to maintain privacy over personal and medical information, and compelling citizens to turn over protected health data to law enforcement erodes those rights.”
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