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Life in the future

A judge has ordered Amazon to turn over any recordings made by an Echo device that was in a house where a double murder occurred:

The ruling was handed down by Strafford County Superior Court Presiding Justice Steven M. Houran on Friday.

“Accordingly, the State’s motion to search in lieu of a search warrant is granted,” the ruling by Houran states. “The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability, FCC ID number ZWJ-0823, from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period.”

The Amazon Echo device was seized by police from the home, according to court documents.

It’s unclear whether there is any audio evidence on the device, but the court found probable cause that the speaker could have recorded “evidence of crimes committed against Ms. Sullivan, including the attack and possible removal of the body from the kitchen.”

An Amazon spokesperson told The Associated Press it would not release the recordings “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.”

Emphasis added. So, is Amazon saying the devices do record conversations?

4 Responses to “Life in the future”

  1. pkoning Says:

    Sure looks that way.

    I wonder if the judge thinks that the FCC ID is a serial number. It isn’t — it’s more like a model designation. It’s a bit like ordering the production of all information about “Ford automobile F-150”. I suppose Amazon could send them everything they have about every Echo device with that FCC ID — millions of devices most likely. Overkill as a form of compliance… 🙂

  2. HL Says:

    That is Bezos’ data and he isn’t giving it up!

  3. SPQR Says:

    It’s known that such devices upload recording for speech recognition processing. The question is how long Amazon retains the recordings.

  4. Mike Says:

    SPQR has it right.

    Devices of this nature have to “listen” to everything in order to function. We know that some of the sound is recorded whether ephemerally, “permanently,” or something in between. What I do not know is how much that isn’t a command to the device is recorded for how long.

    I earn my daily bread as a cybersecurity engineer and I won’t have anything in my house resembling this device.