United States: Amazon Echo boxes, main witnesses of a murder?

Can data obtained via a connected object be used as evidence in a legal case? According to the American police, the answer is yes. In the state of Arkansas, justice asks Amazon to provide recordings made by Echo boxes in a murder case.

The connected objects that invade our homes will perhaps be the witnesses of tomorrow, silently immortalizing what is happening, at least at the sound level. Whitewashing someone or giving more weight to their accusation thanks to these devices will surely be more common in the more or less near future.

Forerunner of such a trend, an American criminal case incorporates an unusual element: the connected objects that are Amazon’s Echo boxes. A former police officer named Victor Collins has been found dead in an outdoor sauna in the garden of his neighbor Andrew Bates. Main witness, the latter affirmed that he was sleeping and that Victor Collins had accidentally drowned.

However, the police found traces of a struggle at the site and noted the consumption of 140 gallons of water (0.5 m3) between 1 and 3 a.m. on the night of the murder, which is therefore proof that the sauna was voluntarily filled during this time slot. These elements make it possible to have serious doubts about the allegedly accidental nature of the drowning and the justice charged Andrew Bates.

In order to obtain more concrete evidence on the circumstances of the tragedy, the police asked that the connected objects equipping the house of the presumed culprit be requisitioned (including the famous Amazon Echo boxes using Alexa voice recognition). Indeed, his house is full of them.

According to a press release from the Benton County (Arkansas) prosecutor, a search warrant was obtained in order to claim the data recorded by its boxes from Amazon. However, the boxes aren’t supposed to record anything unless the word « Alexa » is spoken, but police are confident they contain something interesting that could be used as evidence.

However, Amazon resists and refuses to honor the mandate for the reason mentioned above. It turns out that the Echo boxes must remain in permanent audio standby, if only to detect the pronunciation of the word Alexa and this standby would be stored on a cloud. Better still, according to the Ars Technica site, the last files recorded by the boxes would be stored in their own memory while waiting to be transferred to the cloud!

« Law enforcement shouldn’t turn technologies that improve our quality of life against us, » indicated the defendant’s lawyer, Kimberly Weber.

On the side of Amazon, there is concern to be done since in the event that the police manage to prove that the Echo boxes have recorded recoverable data, this will mean that the latter allow espionage without the knowledge of the owners of the device. the device, which would represent very bad publicity for the firm. To be continued.

Sources: Ars Technica – Sciences and Future

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