According to a report from The Information, police in Bentonville, Arkansas recently issued a warrant for Amazon to release recordings from the Echo owned by a man set to go on trial for first-degree murder. Amazon declined to give Echo-related recordings to the authorities, but did offer some account details and purchase history related to the account — which in some ways could prove to be more valuable.
Police indicated that they were able to take some data from the Echo locally, but did not confirm what all was able to be retrieved. Considering that the Echo relies on a constant internet connection to provide its smarts, chances are the real treasure trove would only lie on Amazon's servers. Beyond that, the Echo is unlikely to have recorded anything incriminating, as aside from some occasional miscues it is only recording once it hears the trigger words of "Amazon," "Alexa" or "Echo" and within relatively close proximity.
Other types of data, like that apparently retrieved from the suspect's various IoT devices, could be far more interesting to the case if they are permitted to be used. Smart plugs, light bulbs, automated home devices and of course cameras could prove to be difference makers in this case (and far beyond). For example, in this particular case, a smart water meter showed incredibly high water usage prior to the time the victim was found dead at the home.
When it comes to law enforcement attempting to build the strongest case, it isn't surprising that the local authorities would do everything possible to obtain evidence. Issuing warrants for all data collected by smart home devices is in no way surprising — the only question is whether or not these companies can be (or will be) compelled to hand it over, and if the courts eventually find it legal and admissible in court.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.