Amazon agrees to hand over Echo records for murder case

US law enforcement has won the battle to obtain recordings from an Echo device for a murder investigation.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Amazon has handed over Echo audio recordings to US prosecutors keen to analyze the information as part of a murder investigation.

The case revolves around former Georgia police officer Victor Collins, who was found dead in a friend's hot tub in November 2015.

James Andrew Bates, the associate in the case, discovered Collins and called law enforcement; however, US police suspected the man of first-degree murder after finding injuries on Collins, as well as blood around the tub.

Bates has pleaded not guilty and prosecutors wanted access to the Amazon Echo's recordings in his home, as the device was in use at the time.

It may be that the speaker could contain audio fragments related to the case, recorded as Alexa listened for commands. These recordings could help investigators piece together what happened at the time of Collins' death.

Amazon has already handed over subscriber and account information but balked at giving police officers recordings for the 48-hour period during November 21 through 22, 2015.

Now, however, it seems the tech giant's mind has been swayed.

According to the Associated Press, Amazon has now submitted to demands for the information and has dropped the fight against a subpoena issued for the audio recordings.

While Amazon could have kept fighting over the right to protect the information, the key change in attitude was due to the defendant himself, who said he didn't mind if Amazon released the audio recordings to prosecutors.

As a result, the data was handed over to law enforcement late last week.

The decision is a u-turn from Amazon's stance in February, in which the company resisted US orders to hand over the data.

Amazon originally attempted to resist the order by saying the firm was required to weigh customer privacy against such requests and said prosecutors had not made their case that the smart speaker's records were significant in the inquiry.

Amazon cited the First Amendment and said the "warrant should be quashed unless the Court finds that the State has met its heightened burden for compelled production of such materials," adding that "Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us."

The best gadgets for a smart, connected home

Amazon's decision is significant, not only as it highlights how smart devices have paved a new avenue for data collection in homes which choose to utilize IoT, but especially as the company is potentially planning to give Alexa eyes into our homes.

Reports suggest a camera-equipped Echo may be destined for the market to take on rival product range Google Nest, and in particular, the Nest smart security system.

In related news, leaked CIA files revealed to the public this week by Wikileaks revealed that the CIA and MI5 may be working together to produce malware which can infect Samsung smart television sets to transform them into bugs able to listen in and record audio in your home.

The best smart home, IoT products of CES 2017

Revealed: New York airport's wave of security lapses:

Editorial standards