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Siri and Alexa could become witnesses against you in court some day

The Amazon Echo is summoned in a murder case.
Photo credit:
Newsweek

That digital assistant that you received for Christmas may be recording more than just your five-second inquiry on the weather.

In a recent murder case, Arkansas investigators asked Amazon to release data recorded on their popular Echo device which was present during the time of the crime.

Contrary to what some believe, the devices don’t just “wake up” after they hear a command, they continue to record for nearly a minute later, but these organic conversations are not stored in the server.

After a new question is posed the latter is erased, therefore rendering the device useless for keeping track of what was said in a room at a specific time, although technically it is still eavesdropping, awaiting its "wakeword."

The Amazon Echo device uses “Alexa,” a female voice command system which can respond and carry on conversations with its owner.

It is this aspect of the technology which prosecutors would like Amazon to release as it pertains to a 2015 Arkansas murder investigation. 

The case involves James Andrew Bates who is accused of strangling, then drowning a house guest after a night of sports television and a dip in the spa.

Amazon has  refused to release the recordings gathered from the suspects device on the night of the murder, telling USA Today it, “will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on it.”

The online retail giant did provide prosecutors with account and purchase history of the accused, and police did confiscate the digital assistant, but have not revealed anything about their findings.

Although it is always “on,” the device is not constantly recording, reports USA Today, in fact its operator can manually switch the electronic aide to “mute.” 

As new technology brings with it the ability to record movements, dialogue and and other personal information a watchdog group called Voice Privacy Industry Group was formed last March to monitor  the potential invasion of personal data which may go undetected by the consumer.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center, in Washington, D.C. warns of privacy compromise, "there should be clear legal standards established for law enforcement access. And manufacturers should adopt techniques for data minimization and data deletion. Devices that retain data will be the targets not only of law enforcement officials but also criminal hackers,"