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Amazon Gives In, Hands Over Customer’s “Alexa” Data
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Amazon echo

Summary: A murder suspect has given permission for law enforcement to examine the data from his Amazon Echo, prompting Amazon to stop resisting the police efforts to obtain the data from them.

Amazon will no longer fight to protect “Alexa” in the courts. The Seattle-based tech giant was claiming protection under the First Amendment of their Echo device in Arkansas. They have now agreed to cooperate and hand over data from the device of a murder defendant, who also gave them permission.

  
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Amazon was fighting the law enforcement agency of Bentonville, Ark up until last week. Authorities had subpoenaed the company last year two separate times for access to audio recordings of an Echo smart speaker belonging to accused murderer James Andrew Bates. Amazon refused to hand over the recordings.

Bates had no problem with the police having access to the data, filing paperwork giving them permission and asking Amazon to comply. With consent from the owner, Amazon knew they had little to fight back against so they sent the data over on March 3. They had been citing customer privacy rights as well as First Amendment protection but with the customer consenting, the privacy part as no longer an issue.

The case is headed to a hearing to determine if any of the Echo’s data is relevant to the case. Bates is accused of strangling Victor Collins in his home after a night of drinking in November 2015. Collins was found dead in a hot tub on the back patio with the cause of death cited as strangulation, with a contributing cause of drowning.

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Police believe the device, which is voice-activated and records key words and phrases, may have picked up on things during that night that may help determine what happened. Bates, who is charged with first-degree murder, claims he found Collins the next morning.

Amazon wanted the police to provide proof of why they needed the data before just handing it over. They claim the local law enforcement never did this. They said, “Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising their First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home, conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution.” An Amazon spokesperson stated in December that they would only release customer data with a “valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.”



Do you think that companies like Amazon and Apple should be fighting back against the government to protect our data? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about tech companies at odds against the authorities, read these articles:

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org



 

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