Security & Fraud

Amazon’s Alexa Won’t Be A Witness In Murder Trial

Amazon has long been a champion for protecting customer data, and that isn’t changing, with the company filing a motion to stop a search warrant to access Amazon Echo recordings for a murder trial in Arkansas.

According to a report in Forbes, prosecutors wants the recordings made by James Andrew Bates, who is accused of murdering Victor Collins in November 2015. In its filing Amazon is arguing that the Alexa’s responses are protected under the first amendment. In December, Amazon contested an order to provide audio from Echo from Nov. 21 through November 22, 2015. Investigators also wanted subscriber and account information. While Amazon turned over the subscriber and purchase information, it balked at providing the audio recordings, saying it wanted the warrant thrown out because the voice recordings and Alexa, its digital virtual assistant responses, are protected by the First Amendment. Amazon said the requests to Alexa and the responses include details that would tell too much about the user.

“At the heart of that First Amendment protection is the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery,” Amazon wrote in the legal brief. It went on to say the protections for Alexa were two-fold, according to Forbes.

“The responses may contain expressive material, such as a podcast, an audiobook or music requested by the user. Second, the response itself constitutes Amazon’s First Amendment–protected speech.”

Pointing to a past case that had to do with Google, Amazon contended that Alexa’s choices as to what responses to include in answering a user’s question was “constitutionally protected opinion” and as a result gets “full constitutional protection,” the report noted. Amazon went on to say that “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.”


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