Amazon’s Echo May Help Put You In Prison

Image Credit: Rick Turoczy under CC 2.0.

The Amazon Echo, Google Home, your Internet searches, etc… may be utilized against you in court. For years, I have warned the public through my writings, seminars, media appearances, etc… about the privacy issues inherent in the Digital Age.  Unfortunately, many of my warnings about the threats to our privacy have been perceived as too Fox Muldery (one of the main FBI agents in hit X-Files TV show and movies).

Voice activated digital assistants such as Amazon’s Echo are always on and potentially recording everything within earshot of the device.  Amazon along with Google and other companies have been intentionally opaque regarding what exactly their personal digital devices are recording, where the recordings are being stored, how long these recordings are kept, who may have access to them, etc… The lack of transparency regarding the answers to these questions needs to change.

The latest privacy concern regarding these devices comes from Amazon’s Echo. A murder occurred in Arkansas and the defendant owned an Amazon Echo and the prosecutor wants access to the data the device collected to determine if there is any evidence that may assist its prosecution.  If I was the prosecutor, I would request access to all potential evidence that may help with determining the facts.  Its not just prosecutors in criminal matters who will want access to Echo’s data, its lawyers in civil proceedings.  Whether its a divorce proceeding, child custody, business disputes, etc… if the data exists it may be significant evidence that can change the outcome of a legal dispute.

Amazon is pushing back against the prosecutor because if the prosecution is successful in acquiring the data generated by the Echo it will open the floodgates to more of these types of requests around the country. Responding to these requests may become very time consuming and expensive.  When Amazon loses this case as I believe it eventually will, it may deter people from buying or using the Echo and similar products. If consumers don’t feel they can trust Echo with their inner most thoughts and personal privacy and they don’t buy the Echo and similar devices, it will cost Amazon and the technology industry tens of billions of dollars in lost profits.

I recently attended a holiday party and I was surprised when I saw an Amazon Echo.  Almost everyone there was asking it all sorts of interesting questions.  When it was placed near me, I refused to speak around it. I explained that anything said to the Echo may come back to haunt you. I was teased by some of the attendees as being too paranoid. Well, to those at the party last week, “I TOLD YOU SO” and ……..!

The bottom line is that if you are going to utilize the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or similar products you need to know that the data these devices collect may be requested by the police in criminal investigations and opposing counsel in civil proceedings. Therefore, you may want to think twice before welcoming a potential Trojan Horse into your home.

Copyright 2016 by Brad Shear All rights reserved.

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