The Amazon Echo is likely to prove one of, if not the most popular tech gift of the festive season, meaning the company now has an ear and a voice in thousands more homes around the world. Indeed, the company has just announced sales of the gadget are up 9x on last Christmas.
When we welcome personal assistants like Alexa in the Echo and Assistant in Google Home we tend to think of the positives; like how they can help you find information, control your music and operate your smart home gadgets.
We spend less time thinking about how something that records your utterances and saves them to the cloud could some day work against you… like in a murder trial, for instance.
The Information reports (via Engadget) police in Arkansas in the US made a request to Amazon to release voice data from an Echo owned by James Andrew Bates, who is scheduled to stand trial for first degree murder next year.
Amazon has greeted the request with a big fat ‘NO’ according to the report, but did hand over Bates’ purchase history. The report says police were able to pull some data from the speaker, but it’s not clear what.
Alexa isn’t supposed to record audio unless activated by using her name (or Amazon or Echo) specifically, while those recordings are also synced to the companion app where they can be played back.
However, that’s not where the Internet of Things role in the case ends.
Bates also has a smart home gadget that registered 140 gallons of water had been used on the night the alleged crime was committed, with investigators claiming that may have been used to wash away evidence.
Needless to say, Bates’ defense team isn’t keen on the IoT tech being used in the trial.
“You have an expectation of privacy in your home, and I have a big problem that law enforcement can use the technology that advances our quality of life against us,” defense attorney Kimberly Weber said.
Whether or not the evidence is ruled admissible, or more information can be obtained from Amazon remains to be seen.
However, it’s certainly food for thought on the potential perils of welcoming all of those always-listening, always-collecting items of tech into our homes.