Can Alexa Solve a Murder Case?
One Sunday morning, sometime during last November, when the Police responded to a call from a home in Bentonville, Ark., they discovered Victor Collin’s dead body in the backyard. The scene was a grim one. Victor’s body was floating in a hot tub, face up with left eye and lips dark, swollen. Little did they thought, back then, that they would need assistance from an AI – Amazon’s Alexa.
The resident who dialed 911 told the police that Collins allowed two of his mates to crash at this place, watch football and drink. In the morning Bates discovered Collin’s lifeless body in the spa. After investigating, the police saw signs of struggle in the crime scene and the chief medical examiner ruled that it was a homicide. Soon, the police got a warrant to search Bates’ home.
Inside his home, the cops found a large number of smart devices. These include the Nest thermometer, a Honeywell Alarm system and an Amazon Echo device. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”
Echo Hears It All
Now, the Amazon Echo device has seven microphones. All of them are active all the time. They start recording and streaming to the cloud once it hears the wake up word – Alexa. A second before the wake up word is also streamed to the cloud.
The recording is also logged in the Amazon’s Alexa app that can be deleted later. So, when you ask “Alexa, how is the weather going to be later today?”, you can go back to the app to see what you asked and when. Therefore, the police expects the Echo device to have some data regarding the case here, since Echo is always listening out for the wake up word.
An Amazon spokesperson said that Echo is not recording at all time to hear the wake up word. The device is constantly listening but not recording. Therefore, Amazon has refused to comply with the warrants. Bates was charged with first degree murder, but pleaded not guilty and is on bail. Hos defense attorney, Kimberly Weber, told the Information she was alarmed by the police request of Amazon, which she viewed as an invasion of her client’s privacy.
Source: Washington Post