The number of Internet-enabled sensors in homes across the country is steadily increasing. These sensors are collecting personal information about what’s going on inside the home, and they are doing so in a volume and detail never before possible. The law, of course, has not kept up. There are no rules specifically designed for law enforcement access to data collected from in-home personal assistants or other devices that record what’s going on inside the home, even though the home is considered the heart of Fourth Amendment protection. That’s why it’s critical that companies push back on requests via currently existing rules for data collected via these new in-home devices. EFF applauds Amazon for doing just that—pushing back on a law enforcement request for in-home recordings from its Echo device.The widely-publicized case involves a first-degree murder investigation out of Bentonville, Arkansas. The victim, Victor Collins, was found in November 2015 his friend’s home. The two had been drinking and watching football with a few others at the friend’s home the night before. The friend, James Bates, was charged with first-degree murder. He pled not guilty and is currently awaiting trial.During a search of the defendant’s home in December 2015, police found an Amazon Echo in the kitchen. The police seemed to think that the device—which is “always listening” to its surrounding for its “wake” words, Alexa, Echo, or Amazon—may have recorded what went on inside the home. They seized the device and later served Amazon with a warrant for any “audio recordings, transcribed records, or other text records related to communications and transactions” between the Echo device and Amazon’s servers for a 48-hour period surrounding the incident, along with subscriber and account information. Amazon turned over the defendant’s subscriber information and purchase history, but it refused to turn over any recordings or transcripts.
EFF Applauds Amazon For Pushing Back on Request for Echo Data