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Privacy Secured? Warrant Issued for Amazon Echo Data

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Published on: January 2, 2017

A lot of the technology that we use today often betters our lives, makes us more efficient, or in some cases, just wastes more time. However, some of the latest technology is also being utilized to spy on us, directly or indirectly. Now, we are seeing that a warrant has been issued to gather the data from an Amazon Echo device in a murder case, which may sets a precedent regarding one’s privacy and security of their property.

Alice Salles reports:

A case involving a murder in Arkansas just helped the public learn that companies like Amazon often retain recordings of people’s conversations through devices like Amazon Echo — and that these recordings are stored in servers that may later be subject to law enforcement investigations. Depending on how the case shapes up, it could set a legal precedent that would open up government access to similar smart devices, and even force companies to keep these recordings in storage for future investigations.

The first warrant naming this specific device was tied to a Bentonville, Arkansas, murder that happened in November 2015. The official document asked the company to release “any recordings between November 21 and November 22, 2015.” The Amazon Echo device in question belongs to James Andrew Bates, the suspect facing a first-degree murder charge associated with the death of his friend, Victor Collins. Collins was allegedly strangled and drowned in Bates’ hot tub.

In the search warrant, police wrote that the “records … retained by … are evidence related to the case under investigation.” Nevertheless, Amazon did not release any data. Instead, the company provided investigators with the suspect’s account details, which include past purchases. Despite Amazon’s decision not to cooperate unless “a valid and binding legal demand properly [is] served,” officials may still be able to recover information from the device’s speakers without the company’s help.

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“Even without Amazon’s help,” CNET reported, “police may be able to crack into the Echo” by tapping “into the hardware on the smart speakers, which could ‘potentially include time stamps, audio files or other data.'”

Other smart devices covered by this warrant included Collins and Bates’ phones, a wireless weather monitoring system, a WeMo device used for lighting, a Nest thermostat, and a Honeywell alarm system.

According to Salles, “If this case serves as an example of anything, it is that your privacy is not protected, even if companies like Amazon refuse to cooperate with law enforcement under certain circumstances. With or without a warrant, officials will continue to use similar devices against their owners.”

I agree with her assessment. We have seen numerous cases where the right of the people to be secure, a right protected under the Fourth Amendment, has been violated by local, state and federal public servants.

One of the biggest violations of rights was largely unreported by the media. In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security just decided it would ignore the Fourth Amendment, similar to how they did after 9/11 in searching and seizing persons and items at airports, and declare that 197 million people’s rights are not valid while inside 100 miles of the border of the united States. Furthermore, a judge upheld their decision, even though it is illegal.

While in this case a warrant was obviously issued, it should serve as a reminder that with new technology, comes new dangers that threaten your privacy and security both from criminals inside and outside of government.

This is why it is good that you practice good online security measures.

I am not one that is against technology. In fact, I support the development of it, but I’m always aware of those who would seek to use that technology against us to impose tyranny.

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