Legally Speaking – Alexa and Court Cases

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JOPLIN, Mo. — Advances in technology may be opening the door to new evidence in court cases.

Attorney Aaron Sachs discusses the use of Alexa in a murder case in this week’s Legally Speaking.

Alexa is a device sold by Amazon. What do we need to know about Alexa?

Attorney Aaron Sachs, said, “Alexa is the name of the Al software that is embedded in devices sold by Amazon that allows you to ask the internet questions. It searches the internet and responds with the answer. It took Amazon 4 years to sell 100 million units, but last year that number doubled in just one year to over 200 million units in use world-wide. 150 products have Alexa technology embedded in their product including some cars. In certain circumstances, it will record your conversation.”

What happens to the information that recorded?

“It is always listening and a few key words trigger it to “wake up” and respond to you. For example, if you say “Hey Alexa” it wakes up, When the wake word is spoken, it tapes a few seconds of recorded data before the wake word and about 60 seconds in recorded data after you speak. This data is stored locally and sent up to the cloud for analysis. Assuming the sound of my voice is close to yours, by just saying that wake word on TV right now, I may have triggered a recording of every household that had an Alexa listening to this broadcast.”

We’ve recently read about the murder investigation in which the Arkansas police are requesting Amazon’s assistance. Does this have anything to do with Alexa?

“Yes, the Arkansas police are asking Amazon to share what Alexa may taped during a murder. Amazon has currently denied access to this information but since this isn’t any different than information on a cell phone, its my opinion that Amazon will eventually give up the recording when proper warrants are produced. Alexa recordings may be a new type of evidence in court cases.”

What is the bottom line and how does it affect our expectation of privacy inside our own homes?

“Your expectation of privacy in your house is decreasing as we introduce more and more internet-based technology that has the ability to listen in on us.”

Legally Speaking was sponsored by Aaron Sachs and Associates.

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