Remember when we reported how an Amazon Alexa could be the key to solving a difficult murder case? Well, as it turns, Amazon Alexa has added yet another skill to its repertoire: upholding the First Amendment!
In an unprecedented move, Amazon has refused to hand over the millisecond worth voice and transcription data recorded by the Echo speaker which was to be used against its user in Arkansas as part of a murder trial. According to an AP report, Amazon states that since the authorities haven’t proved that the investigation is in any way more important than their customer’s privacy rights, hence they have the right to protect and withhold the recorded data under the First Amendment.
Last week, Amazon filed a 91-page motion, published by Ars Technica, with the Benton County Circuit Court to retract the search warrant issued by the police back in December to get some insight into the November 2015 murder case of Victor Collins.
James Andrew Bates, the owner of the Echo speaker, has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charges against him.
An Amazon spokesperson talked about the legal move,
“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 representative gave the same statement to AP after filing the motion which states,
“The recordings stored by Amazon for a subscriber’s Echo device will usually be both (1) the user’s speech, in the form of a request for information from Alexa, and (2) a transcript or depiction of the Alexa Voice Service response conveying the information it determines would be most responsive to the user’s query. Both types of information are protected speech under the First Amendment.”
The move is a bold yet calculated risk, especially after the concerns showed by their users as they realized how these devices can be held against them in court. The company has stuck to their narrative of making the prosecutors first prove that the information isn’t available elsewhere before looking to seize the recorded data. Amazon has also requested that in the case this is proven, the court must first review it before handing it over to the prosecutors to make sure that the recording is actually relevant to the case.
The company remarked,
“At the heart of that First Amendment protection is the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery. The responses may contain expressive material, such as a podcast, an audiobook, or music requested by the user. Second, the response itself constitutes Amazon’s First Amendment-protected speech.”
You can learn all the details of the murder case here.
Are you concerned about your privacy and security while using these home assistant devices prying on your every whisper and move? Do you think this is a good move by Amazon or are they withholding justice?