Investigators are focusing on Jamal Khashoggi’s Apple Watch

His heart rate would be an important data point.
His heart rate would be an important data point.
Image: REUTERS/Stephen Lam
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The Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was living in Turkey in self-imposed exile when he walked into his country’s embassy in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and never walked out again. Turkish authorities think Khashoggi was murdered inside the embassy, which the Saudis dispute.

To figure out what actually happened in his disappearance, investigators are looking into the supercomputer on his wrist.

Khashoggi was wearing his black Apple Watch when he went in, which was connected to a mobile phone held by his fiancé, who was waiting outside the embassy.  “We have determined that it was on him when he walked into the consulate,” a security official told Reuters. “Intelligence services, the prosecutor’s office, and a technology team are working on this. Turkey does not have the watch so we are trying to do it through connected devices.”

It is unlikely Khashoggi had the latest Series 4, but he could have had a Series 3 from last year, which had cellular connectivity for the first time. The previous generations of the Apple Watch passed on data to a connected iPhone exclusively through wifi and Bluetooth connectivity, which has a range of around 330 ft (100 m). So in either case, Khashoggi’s watch could have been feeding data to the phone the whole time he was inside—including during the alleged murder. The Apple Watch monitors your heart rate and tracks GPS in real time.

Wearables like the Apple Watch and other health-tracking software are increasingly becoming evidence for law enforcement. Police used the Fitbit of a woman in San Jose, California to learn that her heart rate disappeared after her stepfather entered the house. He was later charged with her murder. In another case, the GPS-tracking watch of a jogger showed how she fought back in Seattle when a man assaulted her in a public restroom.

On the flip side, the public maps that Strava released earlier this year showing its fitness trackers inadvertently showed the location of secret US military bases around the world, raising fears they could be used by terrorists.

In Khashoggi’s case, investigators are also focusing on 15 Saudi men who were in the building at the same time as him. Many had arrived by private aircraft from the kingdom.