Amazon Echo’s Help Sought to Solve Murder

Amazon Inc. is fighting US Police over access to data that an Amazon Echo device might have gathered during the murder of Victor Collins, a resident of Bentonville, Arkansas.

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George W. Bailey / Shutterstock

The police believe that Amazon Echo’s recording might be of help to solve the case, and they’ve also issued two warrants, but the company has refused to share information that has been sent to its servers.

The murder took place in the main accused — James Andrew Bates — house; wherein he was charged with first-degree murder in November 2015.

The accused had other Internet-connected devices — a Nest thermostat and Honeywell alarm system –refusingbut the detectives believe that Amazon Echo is the key witness to the case for which Bates has pleaded ‘not guilty’.

According to The Information, police believe that the Echo would’ve been active all night, even during the murder, as the device could’ve been used to control the music which was being wirelessly streamed throughout the night.

How Does Alexa Work?

According to Amazon, Alexa is always alert and listening via its seven built-in microphones but awaits the user command to wake it up — Alexa or Amazon — and stream the audio to its cloud servers.

The user audio recording is available on the servers until it’s manually deleted by the user on an individual basis or the user wipes off the whole database of his recordings.

What is Amazon’s take?

Just like Apple declined to help the FBI during San Bernardino shooting case, even after being presented with a warrant by the local Police Department — twice — Amazon has been declining to hand over any information from Bates’ Echo server to the cops.

Guillermo Fernandes | Flickr
Guillermo Fernandes | Flickr

“We won’t be releasing 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,” the company told BBC.

Nonetheless, the local PD have seized the Amazon Echo device from Bates’ home and will keep working towards cracking it as they consider the device to be a witness to the murder.

This opens up a major debate on the Internet of Things and how they can be used to surveil upon us in our own homes — legally of course. This case opens up venues for further enquiries that can use the smart-tech available around to come to a conclusion.

Gone are the days when a perpetrator would have to worry about a set of eyes watching him in the act, the next generation of crooks will have to watch over their shoulder for every smart gadget in the house or even across the street.

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