Amazon’s Alexa—the Siri-like AI that takes orders from you to control speakers and “smart” home devices—might end up being a real snitch.
Prosecutors want to use comments that Alexa “overhears” from devices like Amazon’s Echo speaker and Echo Dot in criminal cases, including in an upcoming murder trial in Arkansas, where a man is accused of strangling, then drowning, his friend in a hot tub.
“Law enforcement has an obligation to try to obtain evidence of the crime,” prosecuting attorney Nathan Smith said.
The device keeps a record of all the commands made to Alexa, and, according to Amazon, its system puts audio in its cloud after it hears its “wake word” (which is usually just “Alexa,” as in “Alexa, play my ‘Jock Jams’ playlist.”). After it processes a request, it stops recording, according to Amazon.
Investigators obtained a search warrant in the Arkansas case this August for all “audio recordings, transcribed records, text records and other data” on the speaker. So far, authorities have only obtained basic account information from Amazon.
Though Amazon is not commenting specifically on the Arkansas case, they told the AP that they “will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand,” and that they oppose “overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”
By the way, true story—last night I wondered aloud to my boyfriend if my new Amazon Echo Dot was basically just me opting into being wiretapped by Amazon, and then (jokingly!!!) said “Alexa, I just killed someone.” Alexa responded by telling me I should call the police. Anyway, I’m an idiot on multiple levels.