A recent search warrant in a murder case served to Amazon has IoT advocates worried about the future of privacy in the growing tech space. Investigators in Bentonville, Ark., have requested data from an Amazon Echo device present at the scene of a murder committed back in late 2015. Investigators hope to see if one of Alexa’s seven microphones may have picked up any potentially illuminating or incriminating audio.
Amazon was originally served with the warrant back in 2015 but has not completely complied, according to authorities. The company was re-served recently. Experts seem relatively sure that investigators won’t find much useful from the data. Alexa only records audio once awakened. Additionally, Echo users have the ability to access all recorded data and erase it at any time.
The suspect in the murder case is reportedly a fan of IoT devices and was well on his way to building a fully smart home. Of greatest interest is the suspect’s smart water meter. Police found the water meter recorded unusual amount of water used in the house the night of the murder. Authorities suspect it was perhaps to clean the victim’s blood from the crime scene.
Privacy advocates have warned for years that smart devices are always listening — like when it was discovered that the Samsung SmartTV, when the voice recognition feature was enabled, recorded and transmitted everything users said over the Internet to a third party regardless of whether it is related to the provision of the service. Or when Google’s Nest Cam was found to record and store 30 days of the footage from consumers’ homes.
Combine these findings with increased cybersecurity awareness (and paranoia) following the distributed-denial-of-service attack on Dyn that used poorly secured IoT devices to create a botnet, and consumers are more concerned than ever about the security of their private data — along with their private conversations and activities in the home. While police investigating a murder using IoT data is less concerning, the idea that a hacker could access the same data with consumers none the wiser is a bit more unsettling.