Alexa, Will You Testify Against Me?

Technology can be very convenient. Cellphones have become smartphones, and almost no one actually uses them as phones anymore. They can be used for texting, Facebook, surfing the internet or with one of the thousands of apps available. But that convenience comes with a price, and the price is your privacy. Third parties, like Facebook, Google, and Amazon store a vast trove of information about you.

With the introduction of home digital assistants, that store of information is about to grow ever larger. If you have an Amazon Echo or a similar Google device in your home, you may understand that it is always listening. It is triggered by a “wake” command, and the questions you ask the device are stored by Amazon or Google. They use this information to develop a better profile of your “tastes” in order to better tailor suggestions for a product you may want to purchase.

But what if alleged criminal activity occurred in your home equipped with such a device? if you had a fight with a spouse or a drug deal is alleged to have taken place? Could your device testify against you?

Well, something did happen to one man, who is accused of murder and police have obtained a search warrant to extract voice recordings made by the device. It is unclear if there is anything incriminating on the device.

The law in this area is undeveloped as these devices have only appeared in homes within the last few years. As this case shows, police will lose no time in attempting to obtain information from these services. Given that they are always on, listening or videoing parts of your home, the potential for “valuable” evidence will be hard to resist.

In this case, additional information appears to have been gleaned from the “smart” hot water heater, which showed significant use in the middle of the night and which law enforcement claims was when the accused was washing the blood from the hot tub where the murder is supposed to have been committed.