Compliance Management, Threat Management, Privacy

Privacy Issue? Pacemaker data used to charge suspected arsonist


A suspected arsonist is behind bars after police used data gleaned from the man's pacemaker with a warrant to charge him with felony arson and insurance fraud, a trend that worries privacy groups.

Ross Compton, age 59, of Middletown, Ohio was indicted after allegedly setting his own house on fire in September 2016, according to the Journal-News.  

Cases like this could be the canary in the coal mine concerning the larger privacy implications of using a person's medical data, Electronic Frontier Foundation Criminal Defense Staff Attorney Stephanie Lacambra told SC Media.

"Americans shouldn't have to make a choice between health and privacy," Lacambra  said. "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."

She added the EFF is concerned that as technology advances, the erosion of individual privacy in personally identifiable health information increases.

Compton uses an artificial heart implant for which police obtained a warrant allowing them to access all electronic data stored in the cardiac pacing device, including heart rate, pacer demand and cardiac rhythms prior to, during and after the fire, after noticing inconsistencies in his story. 

The Ohioan reportedly had packed his bags and threw them out his bedroom window and told dispatchers that everyone was out the house before yelling “get out of here now” at the end of the call, the Journal-News reported.

A cardiologist who reviewed that 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 period of time he has indicated due to his medical conditions,” court documents state according to the publication.

The fire also had multiple points of origin from outside the house. The incident caused approximately $400,000 in damage and killed Compton's cat.

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