If you stay up-to-date on the latest technology, then you no doubt already familiar with the Amazon Echo. It’s a hands-free speaker that you control with your voice. Although this gadget is growing in popularity, that may soon change. As it turns out, Arkansas police are now taking advantage of this device and want to hear everything you have to say. After all, Amazon’s Echo is always listening.
Arkansas cops are using Amazon’s Echo to eavesdrop
The Amazon Echo is a device that conveniently allows you to speak into it and request for certain things. Not only can it play music, it also can control the lights in your home.
However, this hands-free speaker is also allowing the police to hear everything you say.
Now, Amazon is receiving search warrants that demand access to audio recordings and other data coming from the Echo.
In fact, these warrants, issued by a court in Benson County, are demanding everything recorded by an Amazon Echo device that belongs to a murder suspect.
According to documents first uncovered by The Information, the suspect received charges for the death of a man that he strangled in a hot tub.
The Amazon Echo is always listening
Amazon’s servers, in particular, store everything that the Echo picks up after the user speaks the specific activation word. The device responds to the owner’s voice. However, there is nothing that keeps the live speaker from overhearing everyday conversations.
According to police detective Josh Woodhams, the device stores recordings within its local memory. With this in mind, it may be recording at all times, even without a wake word. Moreover, he says it’s possible that ambient noise can trigger the device to record as well.
Any useful information can be pulled from the speaker. The warrant application, in particular, states that this information includes audio files, timestamps, and other data.
While Amazon did hand over the suspect’s info, they apparently didn’t surrender any of the Echo’s voice recordings as of January 29, 2016.
Are privacy concerns going to hinder the Echo’s popularity?
In a statement sent to Vocativ via email, an Amazon spokesperson declined to any comments regarding the case. On the other hand, they did say that the company won’t release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand.
Also, Amazon “objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” However, it’s unclear if Amazon considers the warrant for Echo voice data a “valid and binding” request.
Despite privacy concerns over Amazon’s Echo’s ability to overhear conversations, the device remains quite popular. In fact, Google is now attempting to compete by creating a similar speaker called “Home.”
After only two years of being on the market, there are now 5.1 million Echo devices inside people’s homes. Not to mention, the speaker sold out online quickly over the holidays.
In December, a Las Vegas hotel announced that it’s looking to fill every room with the eavesdropping device. Not only can guests control the lights, but also the curtains inside their rooms. Of course, this also means the device will, as always, be listening.