Police are Seeking Amazon Echo Data for Use in Murder Trial
Amazon Echo and other virtual devices are now part of the legal landscape. As of last week, police are seeking access to Amazon Echo information to see if the Amazon data has something that will help them with a murder case.
According to The Information the police and the attorneys involved in the case from Bentonville Arkansas have issued a warrant to Amazon asking them to hiand over any and all audio or records from Echo that belong to James Andrew Bates. Bates will go to trial for the murder of Victor Collins in 2017.
While Amazon has declined to give any of the recorded information from the Echo that it has on its servers, the company did give the account details and the account purchases from the account to the police. The police state that they could pull some data from the speaker but what they could get was unclear.
The Echo device is always on and can be awoken so police want information that may be stored on the device of an audio nature. According to Gabe Guttierez the police want to see what the device recordings may tell them. “We know Amazon has a copy because consumers can actually listen to all their Alexa requests and they can delete them, so that’s an option that’s available in a lot of these technologies–something that’s good for consumers to know,” stated privacy expert Bob Sullivan.
According to WHO TV the prosecutors say 32-year-old James Bates murdered his co-worker Victor Collins, who was found strangled in Bates’ hot tub.”
Bates, who called 9-1-1 when he found Collins, has pleaded not guilty to the crime and of course isn’t thrilled with the Amazon data being called into play. He had multiple other smart devices attached to his home at the time, including a water meter. The water meter showed that more than 140 gallons of water were used between 1 and 3 am when Collins was murdered.
Investigators state that he used that water to clean up a crime scene. The Echo and other devices like it are supposed to find answers for you by listening to what you tell it to do, but the police in Bentonville believe that it can help with the case by telling them what it heard.
“Did anybody think when this was being created that information you gave to Alexis or you gave to the amazon echo would be used outside your home, and then be used to have you arrested for a crime you didn’t commit?” asked Bates’ defense attorney Kim Weber.
Amazon told WHO TV.com — NBC News that it “will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”
“When we give companies data, the big problem is not only how will it be used today, but how could it be combined with other data in the future and then used against us,” remarked privacy expert Sullivan.
How it all plays out remains to be seen but based on the Echo and the hot water meter, it appears that your smart devices may be the best witnesses against you.