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Privacy issues come into question with Amazon Echo

The most popular holiday product this year for Amazon was the Echo, which features the technology known as Alexa. Privacy issues are at the heart of the device due to a homicide case in Arkansas.

Police reports indicate a man has been accused of killing his friend back in 2015 in a backyard hot tub. When detectives were searching the home of the suspect they found an Amazon Echo. The device is a 'smart speaker' that follows voice commands to play music, make purchases and perform searches on the internet.

Authorities investigating the case in Arkansas have requested that Amazon release any saved data or recordings from the Echo found in the suspect's home, but the company has yet to comply.

The suspect has been charged with first-degree murder. He is scheduled to go on trial beginning in 2017.

Amazon released the following statement in response to the request for date: "Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course."

The Echo is comprised of speakers, a microphone and a tiny computer. The device is always listening for what Amazon terms a 'wake word,' which will activate the device. The default 'wake word' is Alexa. When the device hears the word Alexa, it begins recording. Amazon claims that the device is not continuously recording users and that they have the ability to delete recordings if they so choose.

The search warrant does not specify what authorities believe is on the Echo from the suspect's home, but believe it holds "evidence related to the case under investigation."

There is the possibility that Amazon could be taken to court by the prosecution on the case in order to make the company comply with the search warrant.

Prosecutors said, "They'll say it's for privacy reasons, but I don't believe they have a legal leg to stand on. I don't think they're a bad company or anything, but I don't think they want to release it because they want to sell more of them."

An experienced criminal defense attorney can aid those charged with a crime in asking the court for evidence to be suppressed if it was collected in a manner against the law or that infringes on your rights.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Alexa, will you testify against me? Popular Amazon Echo device raises privacy issues," Kathryn Varn, Dec. 30, 2016

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