Amazon Gadget could be Murder Case Key
Amazon has refused to give police access to data from a home gadget that may have recorded audio relevant to a murder investigation. The company says its policy is to only provide customer information if and when it gets a valid court order.
The request by Arkansas police is for information that may have been recorded by an Amazon Echo. That's a gadget that combines a wireless speaker with voice recognition and an Internet connection. It lets users give voice commands for actions such as selecting music to play, carrying out voice searches of the Internet and controlling smart devices around a home such as some high-tech lighting and thermostats.
Not All Audio Recorded
Police seized the Echo of suspect James Andrew Bates, who is accused of murdering another man. They say they've accessed some data from the device, but would like to see anything Amazon has stored itself. (Source: techcrunch.com)
It's something of a long shot that the device would have picked up any incriminating audio. Although the device is constantly listening (for commands), it only starts taking notice of what the user says once it hears a trigger phrase, which by default is "Alexa", the name of Amazon's virtual assistant. Whenever the Echo is used in this way, a copy of the audio recording is then stored by Amazon until the user remotely deletes it.
What's more likely to interest police is the timing of any commands Bates may have issued to the Echo - something that could help confirm his movements, particularly given he claims to have been asleep during critical hours in the investigation timeline.
Smart Water Meter Raises Suspicions
Even if the police aren't able to get the Echo data, the fact that Bates had smart home technology could be key. He also had a smart water meter and police have used data from that to confirm that he used 140 gallons of water between 1am and 3am on the night of the victim's death.
While Bates says he was in bed during this time and later found the victim face down in a hot tub, police believe he used the 140 gallons of water because he needed to wash away evidence. (Source: engadget.com)
What's Your Opinion?
Should Amazon hand over the data without a court order? Does the right to privacy outweigh the needs of police in such cases? Does an increase in gadgets that record our activities mean we need to rethink tech and privacy laws?
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