In Bentonville, Arkansas, police are using one of the newest forms of consumer technology, the digital home assistant known as the Amazon Echo (Alexa), to assist them in their murder investigation related to the death of a Bentonville, Arkansas man. Local law enforcement has obtained a warrant requesting Amazon to release data from the murder suspect’s device that may contain evidence regarding the circumstances of the man’s death.
The warrant was obtained based on the belief by the police that the device’s “always listening” programming may have collected critical information about the murder. As long as the device is powered on, the Amazon Echo’s several microphones are always active as they listen for commands. The device records any commands that it receives and sends it to a server where it is transcribed and saved. Data is then sent back to the Echo confirming the device’s action in response to the command.
Thus, the Bentonville P.D. is hoping that any stored information may contain helpful information in compiling facts of the events of the night of the crime. Perhaps Alexa heard something, anything. It is rumored that it is unlikely that the Echo contains any conclusive evidence, but it may contain some evidence that the B.P.D. could use to support, corroborate or rebut other evidence. It could possibly negate a suspect’s alibi.
Amazon, like other Silicon Valley companies, has taken the position that the information it collects should not be disclosed in respect of the privacy rights of users. Of course, the last thing that Amazon wants is for consumers to believe that they relinquish their right to privacy when they purchase and use the Echo. Because this is a new product, it remains to be seen how privacy concerns will be affected by its use.
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