According to members of the Guesstimator’s Club, Amazon has sold a few million Echo and Echo Dot devices so that makes it a big success. Meanwhile, Apple has sold perhaps five times as many Watch units, and that’s a big dud, a failure. Go figure, right?
Amazon’s Echo device is pretty cool, though. Like Siri’s always on ‘Hey Siri…’ function on the iPhone, Echo really is always on, always listening to what’s going on in a room, thanks to a handful of always on microphones. Anybody see a problem with that?
Yes, as the saying goes, ‘inquiring minds want to know.’ With Amazon Echo in your home, it’s possible that authorities will know what you’ve been saying recently; for better or worse.
Arkansas police are hoping an Echo found at a murder scene in Bentonville can aid their investigation… investigators filed search warrants to Amazon (see below), requesting any recordings between November 21 and November 22, 2015, from James A. Bates, who was charged with murder after a man was strangled in a hot tub.
Uh oh. Not only is Big Brother watching, he’s listening, too.
While investigating, police noticed the Echo in the kitchen and pointed out that the music playing in the home could have been voice activated through the device. While the Echo records only after hearing the wake word, police are hoping that ambient noise or background chatter could have accidentally triggered the device, leading to some more clues.
This alleged perpetrator has all the wrong kinds of technology working against him. Why?
Amazon stores all the voice recordings on its servers, in the hopes of using the data to improve its voice assistant services. While you can delete your personal voice data, there’s still no way to prevent any recordings from being saved on a server.
And the police want those audio recordings as part of their murder investigation. All thanks to Echo’s Alexa always listening, and always recording what you say and when. That creates a treasure trove for fish hunting authorities. Or the Russians and Chinese.
What about Siri?
For now, Siri’s always on ‘Hey Siri…’ works on newer iPhones and I find that to be useful (other devices need to be plugged into power to get Siri the same functionality) but it’s not available on the Mac in macOS Sierra. No matter. Whatever you say to Siri gets sent back to Apple and Apple isn’t saying how much of what you say it saves for authorities casting fish nets for evidence. But Amazon’s Echo is always on, always recording, and that creates an even more massive amount of information– what you, your family, co-workers, or partners in crime say, night or day– that gets sent back and saved to Amazon’s massive server storage farms.
Anybody got a problem with that? Ask Siri what she thinks of Amazon Echo.
Apparently, the authorities on the drowning murder case mentioned above may have additional information also culled from a modern device.
With every home in Bentonville hooked up to a smart meter that measures hourly electricity and water usage, police looked at the data and noticed Bates used an “excessive amount of water” during the alleged drowning.