“Hey Alexa, play Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson”. “Alexa, where is the best place to hide a body?” “Alexa, call a good Criminal Defense Attorney…Okay Jonathon, Calling the Law Office of Brian Jones”. Still in the honeymoon phase with your smart gadgets? Well prepare to hit a rough patch.
Many were excited to get Amazon’s Echo as a gift this holiday season. Echo plays music, makes calls, and uses apps on command. Once Echo is activated by its keyword such as “Alexa” it listens for commands, recording all along the way, and sends the data to an Amazon Cloud for processing. Amazon retains all requests that are made in order to improve Echo’s services. The recording feature has become the subject of controversy as Arkansas Homicide Instigators clash with Amazon.
James Andrew Bates allegedly strangled and drowned Victor Collins in Bates’s hot tub. The police are hoping that Bates’s Echo was accidently activated and could give some evidence against him. However, Amazon is refusing to accept warrants for the recordings. In an official statement, they said, “Amazon 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.” Amazon did work with investigators in turning over Bates’s account details and purchase history though. Additionally, the police were able to get some kind of information from the Echo without Amazon’s help, but it is unclear what they obtained.
The Echo is not the only smart technology owned by Bates that is being used against him. The warrant also included a Honeywell alarm system, Nest thermostat, WeMo smart lighting device, smart utility monitor, and a wireless weather monitor. According to technology news source Engaget, the smart utilities monitoring device has already been turned into incriminating evidence. Bates used almost 140 gallons of water between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. on the night of the incident which makes investigators think he was washing away the evidence. Bates’s case is not the first time tech companies have been involved in high profile cases. Google search history was used in the Casey Anthony trial and Apple iPhone data was used in the San Bernardino shooting investigation.
Amazon seems to be holding firm on their decision to retain information, but we will see how they stand up to increased pressures from law enforcement. No matter how this case ends, it raises some important points. We are increasingly surrounding ourselves with technology. It may be making our day to day lives easier, but we are sacrificing much of our privacy along the way. Even if you are a law abiding citizen or you supposedly have nothing to hide, this should concern you. Companies collect data on all of us, claiming that it is in our best interest. Can anyone think of a time when massive companies used questionable ethics or put profits over people? Also, who’s to say that all of this information is completely safe? Snapchat’s photos were leaked and Target’s credit card information was hacked. Most importantly, when we no longer have privacy in our own homes, that’s a problem. Tinfoil hats aside, if you know the details of a crime, then I would advise disclosing that to one of the experienced attorneys at The Law Office of Brian Jones rather than your new Amazon Echo. We’re just a click away.