Amazon is continuing to resist efforts from US police to obtain Alexa data that could prove to be useful for an ongoing murder investigation, Associated Press reports.
The Seattle tech giant filed a motion last Friday — its first formal legal response on the issue — to prevent prosecutors in Arkansas from obtaining data that may have been collected by one of its Amazon Echo smart speakers.
Police are investigating the death of Victor Collins, who was found floating face-up in a hot tub at a friend’s house in Bentonville in November 2015. James Bates, the friend in question and the person that reported the death, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. He claims he was asleep in the early hours of the morning when the alleged murder is thought to have taken place.
Amazon is arguing that the Benton County prosecutors haven’t established that their investigation is more important than the privacy rights of its customers, while prosecutors claim that any captured audio could help them to identify who was present.
Benton County prosecutors asked a court to force Amazon to hand over the data from Bates’s Echo device that may or may not be on Amazon’s servers and may or may not prove to be useful in the investigation.
Responding to the request in a court filing, Amazon reportedly states that prosecutors hadn’t established the need for Amazon to violate its customers’ constitutional rights. Amazon believes that the prosecutors should have to prove that they can’t find the information they’re looking for anywhere else before it’s forced to hand over any data.
“Given the important First Amendment and privacy implications at stake, the warrant should be quashed unless the Court finds that the State has met its heightened burden for compelled production of such materials,” Amazon reportedly said in the court documents.
Why detectives want Amazon to comply
Detectives believe that music was being streamed to the back patio on the night of the alleged murder, possibly via Bates’ Amazon Echo device.
Amazon’s Echo devices are programmed to “wake up” when they hear one of the three following words: Amazon, Echo, or Alexa. They record and store audio from a few seconds before the wake word is said until they deem the command to be over.
The Echo devices don’t record audio at any other times but sometimes they are accidentally awakened when they misinterpret a word for a wake word.
“Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course,” Amazon said in a statement sent to Associated Press.