In the United States, a judge in the state of New Hampshire ordered online retailer Amazon to hand over all archived relevant recordings from its Echo smart speaker device in an attempt to help local authorities with a double homicide. It’s yet another case of intelligent, seemingly benign, gadgets assisting governments in criminal matters.
Amazon Ordered to Hand Over Echo Archived Recordings
ABC News Go reported Judge Steven M. Houran recently ruled, “The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability, FCC ID number ZWJ-0823, from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period.”
At the beginning of 2017, Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pelligrini were found dead with multiple stab wounds, their bodies hidden under a porch. Later that year, Timothy Verrill was charged with the murders, and plead not guilty. His trial is set for summer of next year.
A CBS station in Boston, MA, reported, “Investigators believe Sullivan was attacked in the kitchen of 979 Meaderboro Road where the Echo was located, and prosecutors believe there is probable cause to believe there is evidence on the Echo, such as audio recordings of the attack and events that followed it.”
Not the First Time Amazon Ordered to Supply Recordings
Amazon Echos have been around in some form or another since 2010. They connect to an intelligent personal assistant service, Alexa, which is also a word used to awaken the device. Real-time information, from basic weather and traffic reports, streaming podcasts and audiobooks, alarms, to do lists, music, along with other devices interacting in the home.
The company’s policy about customer information being released hinges on their terms of service, which state they keep such records private unless there is “a valid and binding legal demand.”
This is not the first time audio from an Echo has been requested in a murder case. Three years ago, a hot tub related death of a police officer in Arkansas drove prosecutors to ask Amazon release archived recordings. The company refused on first amendment grounds. However, the device’s owner agreed, and Amazon relented. The case was later dismissed.
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