Health is Wealth – The Power of Health App Data in an Investigation

Data extracted from mobile devices is becoming increasingly prevalent in digital investigations and legal proceedings. Recent advancements in mobile forensics have enabled further insights to be gained from Health App data, which can be leveraged in an investigation.

So what exactly is Health App data?

Health App Data is information collected and retained by health and fitness applications on mobile and other synchronized devices, such as fitness wearables and smart watches. In the case of iPhones, every device is sold with the pre-installed Apple Health app (since 2014), meaning that by default, physical activities such as walking and running distance or number of flights of stairs climbed are tracked and stored within the application.

Device-users may also synchronize a fitness wearable or smartwatch to their mobile device, allow other applications to send information to Apple Health, or manually input additional medical and health data into the application. This additional data could provide a wealth of information including:

  • Activity and location history
  • Sleeping patterns
  • Body measurements (gender, weight, height)
  • Allergy and medication details
  • Hearing and audio patterns
  • Heart and respiratory related information
  • Mindfulness and wellbeing
  • Nutrition and dietary requirements

So how can an individual’s daily running route or sleeping pattern be of use in an investigation? By piecing together behavioural habits and daily routines (where someone goes, how they got there, how long it took them to get there), investigators can identify deviations from these habits, which could assist in determining what may or may not have occurred. This has been highlighted in both domestic and international cases where Health App Data has been used in determining location and activity, or assisting investigators in recreating certain movements by suspects relating to the case.

With an increase in the use of mobile devices and in particular, wearables and smartwatches, investigators and device-users alike need to be aware of the value of Health App Data and how it could be potentially be used to address the “Five Ws” of any investigation (who, what, when, where and why).