The Seattle e-commerce giant filed a lengthy court memorandum last week arguing that an Arkansas court should quash a search warrant requesting that it produce audio recordings and transcripts from one of its Echo devices. The Echo was owned by James Bates, a suspect in a local murder case. Citing extensive court precedent in cases regarding privacy and the First Amendment, Amazon argues that authorities should first make “a heightened showing of relevance”—in other words, essentially prove that the Echo data will aid the investigation in some way.
Given the relative newness and growing prevalence of smart speakers like Echo, there’s a lot hinging on the case. Amazon notes in the memo how important privacy and trust are to its customers, and indeed it acknowledges that data from smart devices can be far more revelatory than traditional records. Or in case you forgot, Amazon knows a lot about us.
“Once the Echo device detects the wake word, the Alexa Voice Service endeavors to respond to any ensuing voice communications detected in the user’s home. Accordingly, searching Alexa’s recordings is not the same as searching a drawer, a pocket, or a glove compartment.”