Amazon Says Your Alexa Recordings Are Protected By The First Amendment

from BuzzFeed News

Amazon is turning to the First Amendment to support its refusal to give law enforcement recordings and responses captured by the Alexa voice assistant on an Amazon Echo speaker that may help police solve a murder case.

After James Bates was charged with murdering his colleague Victor Collins in Walmart’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas in November 2015, police issued a search warrant for the contents of Bates’ Echo speaker. But Amazon has fired back with a 90-page brief contending that the records Alexa collected are protected free speech. Forbes has reproduced the document in full.

Bates also owned an LG Nexus cell phone, which, as Amazon noted in its brief, could contain his Echo’s recording if he had downloaded the Alexa app. Amazon has already handed over Bates’ purchase history and account information to law enforcement, but it has declined to release his speaker’s records.

In its brief, Amazon argued, “Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising their First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home, conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution.”

More here.

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26 Responses to Amazon Says Your Alexa Recordings Are Protected By The First Amendment

  1. Julian Manzano March 2, 2017 at 12:05 am #

    The Amazon Echo recently became the center of a murder case, this is not something you hear every day. According to Amazon, the Amazon Echo allow you to do things without having to touch anything, kind of like Siri, except the AI in this case is called Alexa. The Amazon Echo became involved in a murder case when the police investigating the case issued a warrant to obtain the contents of the Echo that belonged to the alleged murder. Amazon responded to this by saying it was a violation of the first amendment and that the police could not do this. Amazon also cited a case in its report about why it was a violation of the first amendment. It even cited a case, Riley v. California, from 2014 that said, “Warrantless searches of electronic devices and digital records are unconstitutional.”
    The main argument by the Amazon legal team was, “At the heart of that First Amendment protection is the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery.” I believe this to be 100% true. If you cannot fully believe that something you are buying will be completely private to you, then it should not be bought. Privacy is important in today’s world, and sometimes it is hard to have some. This issue can be compared to what happened in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. What happened was obviously extremely horrible and terrifying, but the fact that Apple would not allow for the shooter’s phone to be opened really turned some heads. I think it was a very bold and smart move on behalf of Apple. Since I own an iPhone, I am happy and relieved to know that my privacy is not in jeopardy in any circumstance.
    Because these are extreme cases, one may argue it is necessary to give the authority to the government to access contents and violate one’s privacy. Now, this is a valid argument, but who is the one to judge on what an extreme case is and who is to say that this will be abused for not-so-very extreme cases. That is the issue with this, there is no clear-cut line that allows one’s privacy and first amendment to be violated for a higher circumstance, and I believe there should not be one. If there is a precedent set, it will only be a matter of time before it changes and becomes looser and allows people’s privacy to be violated.
    I think, just like in the case of Apple, Amazon made a great move by keeping their customer’s best interests in mind when making this decision. They understand that their customers value privacy and by making one exception in this murder case, they would open the door for potential other cases of having to violate their customer’s privacy. Hopefully companies will follow this idea and keep their customer’s best interests at the forefront of importance, even if it is not received favorably, they will be doing what is best.

  2. Jonathan Cavallone March 2, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

    1. Amazons speaker, known as the Alexa, is a scary product. Being an Alexa owner, I have noticed that the Alexa speaker literally must be listening to every word that it can hear at all times. There is an Alexa in my dorm room and my friends and I were having a conversation and we said the name Alexa, and right away the speaker turned on and was ready to listen the command I would say. I thought to myself what the speaker does with all of the conversations it listens to, does it store them in some cloud storage somewhere, does it not store them at all, or is there some in-between. In a past murder case in November 2015, the police wanted amazon to give them access to Alexa’s voice recordings to help them solve the case. Amazon is arguing that this is a violation of the first amendment by saying, “Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising their First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home, conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution.” While I agree that the people should have the right to the privacy of their technological devices, but in a time of need such as this, information should be forked up to the government. In cases like the one apple had last year when the FBI wanted Apple to create a software to hack an iPhone, it was understandable for Apple to deny them. Creating a software to hack the iPhone could have turned catastrophic. If a hacker got their hands on this software, all iPhone users could have been at risk of having their information stolen. Another argument Amazon makes is, “searching Alexa’s recordings is not the same as searching a drawer, a pocket, or a glove compartment. Like cell phones, such modern ‘smart’ electronic devices contain a multitude of data that can ‘reveal much more in combination than any isolated record,’ allowing those with access to it to reconstruct ‘[t]he sum of an individual’s private life.’” I disagree with this statement because a person’s cell phone is similar to a draw years ago. Years ago, people would store their personal information in things like a desk or drawl or safe, and now in modern society, a cell phone serves as this purpose. Therefore, the government should have the right to access information on a person’s phone if there is valid reasons and perhaps even a warrant. Amazon also claims that Alexa’s speech should be heard as coming from Amazon itself: “the response constitutes Amazon’s First Amendment-protected speech.” Here amazon is essentially claiming Alexa to have the same rights as a person, so the government should not be able to access the voice recordings. This case is quite controversial, and if many people were asked, opinions would probably be split down the middle 50/50. In my opinion, Amazon should have cooperated and handed over the voice recordings to help solve the case, it would not have harmed anyone, and only could have helped the case proceed.

    • Olivia Tarnawska March 16, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

      With Amazon Alexa, there is much controversy about this product especially with the recent murder case. Reading Jonathan’s response I liked the personal example he had when he stated “There is an Alexa in my dorm room and my friends and I were having a conversation and we said the name Alexa, and right away the speaker turned on and was ready to listen the command I would say.” This is a problem I actually just brought up in my second TID. The fact the Alexa woke up the second that Jonathan and his friends mentioned the name, shows that this speaker must be listening at all times to an extent. Having an Amazon Alexa, in my opinion, basically indicates that you are willing to give up your privacy. This product not only answers as soon as the wake word “Alexa” is said, but also logs what you say too. Logging the conversations that are said between a user and Alexa is not only creepy, but at the same time avoidable. However the company Amazon created a product that violates a persons privacy with advertising it in a way that seems like a helpful device. This product is something I think people should stray away from if they value privacy that they already are limited to.

      With Amazon being reluctant to provide law enforcement recordings that may help solve a murder case, I can see both sides to this. Under the first amendment, this is definitely a right that should not be violated. However, with a case that involves a crime like murder, I could also understand why law enforcement wants to get those recordings. The recordings are being used to help benefit the victim and to give possible consequences to the murderer. Though I do believe that Amazon is holding the argument of refusing to give the recordings under the first amendment due to the fear of loosing consumers service and trust. If Amazon were to give up the recordings, Alexa owners and potential buyers would definitely resist in buying the product or promote the product. This would decline the sales of Amazon’s Alexa and could potentially hurt Amazon’s company as a whole. So as stated, I could see both sides, but in the end this product should be one that people stray away from.

  3. Garrett Palmeri March 2, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    Amazon’s Alexa is a device used to make life easier. It responds to your voice and is capable of ordering food, products, or even an Uber. It is not too long ago that the public discovered that Amazon records all of your commands and conversations with or without the device. Many people find this as an infringement of your right to privacy, but it has not been officially challenged yet. Instead, Amazon is actually being asked by an Arkansas police department to handover the recordings of someone they are charging with murder. Amazon has a tough choice to make as whether to support the police or protect the first amendment right of their customers. Apple was also in a related case with the FBI interestingly enough.

    James Bates is being charged with murder by the Bentonville Police Department in Arkansas. To support their case against Bates, police issued a search warrant for the contents of Bates’ Amazon Echo speaker. Amazon decided they were going to protect the first amendment of thei customer and replied to the warrant with a 90-page brief describing how the records that are collected by Alexa are protected by freedom of speech. Amazon is following and setting a strong precedent of protecting their users. Amazon believes that if they were to give into the demands of the police, people would be afraid to express themselves, in which they legally can do, with fear of persecution.

    Amazon uses Riley v. California as an example to support their case. Amazon is stating that searching the recordings is not the same as searching physical belongings such as houses or cars. The Echo should be treated as any other smart device by restricting the power of the government on searching and seizing information found on it.

    There is obviously another driving factor of why Amazon is protecting their consumers right to freedom of speech. If Echo Speaker customers and owners feel their rights can be infringed on while owning this device, sales will rapidly decrease thus decreasing Amazon’s revenue. It is important to not this because Amazon is a business first and must protect themselves. It is fortunate for users that they are standing up for their consumers, but the underlying driver of money is definitely there as the Echo is becoming more popular.

    Apple faced a similar situation with an iPhone and the FBI. The FBI ordered that Apple creates an universal encryption key that could unlock a seized iPhone. Apple refused claiming that the key does not exist for the sole protection of their consumers. Since most data is automatically encrypted on an iPhone, it makes it much tougher to gain access to its content with a password or encryption key. Both Amazon and Apple are doing their part in protecting the people who are connected to the world beyond their imagination. Our devices hold an incredible amount of data that could be relevant to some and irrelevant to most. It is important for the good of the people that companies continue to protect the rights of their consumers.

  4. Erin Carunchio March 3, 2017 at 12:07 am #

    The first amendment of the United States was created in 1789. The amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. This means that their could be no laws in the United States can affect someone’s right to religion or freedom of speech.
    Alexa, by Amazon, is an “intelligent personal assistant” that is capable of voice interaction, music playback, information about the weather and traffic, reading audiobooks and a lot more. Now, people are saying that the recordings you say to your Alexa is protected by the first amendment. This is now an argument because the government and law informant want access to people’s recordings to their Alexa. A murder case happened in Arkansas in November 2015, and law enforcements think if they can access this murder’s echo speaker, then it can solve his murder case. However, Amazon did put up a fight. They presented records that stated that your Alexa is protected under the first amendment, which is free speech. They argued that searching an Alexa is much more complex then searching someone’s drawer or pocket. Searching someone’s Alexa can reveal stuff about his or her private life.
    I think it is important that devices like Alexas are protected by the first amendment. It is true, that people problem put information in there that reveals their private life. It is important that devices that are used in our home stay private, and not be able to get involved with higher authorities. It just shows how heavy people rely on technology now a days. It amazed me that law enforcements tried to get information from someone’s Alexa to solve a murder case. It really shows how technology has grown and how important it is into our daily lives.

  5. Christian Cox March 3, 2017 at 7:58 am #

    James Bates was charged with the murder of Victor Collins in Bentonville, Arkansas over two years ago. James bate owned an Echo speaker made by Amazon. After his arrest law enforcement issued a search warrant for the contents of James Bates’ Echo speaker. Amazon was then put in a tough position; it is one that Apple faced with a few years ago. Amazon responded immediately with their opposition and contended their right to do so in a ninety page brief. Amazon’s legal team argued that a key point of the First Amendment is to protect the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery. The critical point that Amazon’s legal team makes is the classification of Amazon speakers’ recordings and transcripts as “expressive materials.” Which they rightly should. I, as a consumer, should not have to worry about my speaker testifying against me. Law enforcement should not have access to our personal smart devices. When we ask Alexa or Siri, we are not asking the government any questions we are asking Amazon or Apple to complete a task. Thus, this information should not only be protected by the consumer’s First Amendment rights but also Amazon’s First Amendment rights. The information in all of one person’s recordings would reveal a lot of information about that person. Consumers will be less likely to purchase their products if they know they have to be on alert at all times to not incriminate yourself to your own property. If Amazon did not take a stand when they did a precedent of control over every voice control software could have dire consequences. This would mean that law enforcement has bugged every home in America. We should not fear our personal property, because if you do for one it was a bad purchase. Secondly, you can get rid of it some way or another. Either way the overreaching hand of law enforcement would have tainted the advancement of voice control technology forever. When we look at Apple in the past it is clear they faced similar issues. compelling Apple was essentially told to develop technology to do the government’s bidding in untold future criminal investigations. If the government can invoke the All Writs Act to compel Apple to create a special operating system that undermines important security measures on the iPhone, it could argue in future cases that the courts should compel Apple to create a version to track the location of suspects, or secretly use the iPhone’s microphone and camera to record sound and video. Every individual has the right to his or her privacy. A person’s private property should be kept private and at the disclosure of the owner. The government has no right to tell a company to compromise their own technology and the privacy of a customer. It is good to see that companies do not take these situations lightly. I am glad the right to my privacy is being fought for by companies like Amazon and Apple.

  6. hannah deppen March 3, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    When amazon released Alexa, millions of customers lives became a little bit easier. Alexa is a speaker that has a variety of things it can do, from playing music, to reading you the news. What customers are starting to fear with such devices is that Amazon records every conversation the customer has had with Alexa. Recently, Arkansas police department has asked Amazon to reveal James Bates’ Amazon records. The company willingly gave up his purchase history; however, they refused to release recordings from his Amazon Alexa.
    Bates was under investigation for murder, and the police department needed his Alexa conversations to try and find missing pieces to the puzzle. Amazon released a 90-page brief stating that conversations with Alexa, was protected under the first amendment since, “Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising their First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home, conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution.” (Amazon Brief). I think what Amazon did was very reputable and honest since they advertised their product to protect their customer, and when that was challenged, Amazon held their standards. Amazon brought up the case Riley v. California and that Supreme Court ruling that stated that warrantless searches of electronic devices and digital records are unconstitutional. I agree with this Court ruling because a customer should be able to search for information innocently without the government trying to listen in. In our Constitution, we have the right to obtaining information and seeking answers to our everyday questions. With products such as Alexa, those products are only aids to answering our questions. Amazon has every right to protect their customer’s questions.
    I find it odd however, that if Amazon is so adamant on protecting their customers, what is the point of them even recording and saving what people ask Alexa. If amazon will not give up the recordings to the US Government to help solve a murder case, then what is Amazon doing with the recording of their customers conversations? That is what I find odd. However, through cases like this, it does provide reassurance to Amazon customers and knowing that they will be protected and their rights stated in the Constitution are upheld. Whenever we ask Alexa a question, it is not us asking the government, it I asking for an answer to a simple tax. Amazon is trying to make our lives easier by releasing such products, not as a way to sneakily provide information to the government. I am glad that examples like the James Bates murder case is being brought to light because it shows that a company like Amazon is standing up for what they believe in.

  7. Cayla Andican March 3, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    The Amazon Echo device has become very popular over the past few months, especially during the holiday season. My father recently was given an Amazon Echo, he has been trying to return it ever since. My brother and sister thought this Amazon Echo was the coolest thing ever and kept questioning why my father would not set it up. He explained to them that he did not trust this sort of technology because it has the ability to store all the information and no one knows what is could be used for or who is listening. I never put much thought into items like this. With the advancements in technology today, people are capable of doing and hacking almost anything.
    There has been a recent issue where Amazon has been asked for the information stored in the Amazon Echo, they are refusing to give the government the recordings taken by the Amazon Echo, even though what could be found on the device could possibly solve a recent murder case. Ever since James Bates was accused of murdering Victor Collins in 2015, the police have been issuing search warrants for the information held inside the Amazon Echo. Amazon is seeking to ignore the requests for information completely unless the police can prove that the information stored in the Amazon Echo will have an impact on this specific investigation, however, they immediately handed over James Bates’ purchase history and account information. Amazon believes that not only are the Amazon Echo users entitled to First Amendment Rights, but also the Amazon Echo itself. The First Amendment gives the people the right of freedom of speech. Amazon argued, “Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising their First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home, conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution.”
    In 1967 there was a similar case regarding privacy with electronics, Katz v. United States. Katz was arrested after someone overheard him making illegal gambling bets in a public phone booth. Katz argued that his conversation held in the phone booth was protected by the First and Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This case determined that the FBI’s use of eavesdropping through electronic devices is an invasion of privacy and that the information this act provided could not be used during a trial.
    After reading this BuzzFeed article, “Amazon Says Your Alexa Recordings Are Protected By the First Amendment”, I finally understand where my father was coming from when not setting up the Amazon Echo device. This article made a good point when questioning what would happen if Amazon ended up losing this battle and giving up the information to solve the murder case. All Amazon customers will lose trust in not only the Amazon Echo, but the company itself. These devices have access to whatever is said in your home and is stored by Amazon. The company says that Amazon Echos’ only begin recording when we call its name, but how can we be so sure?

  8. Nick Shervanian March 3, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

    Alexa speakers can be a very interesting and beneficial product, but also a very scary one to think have. They have the ability to hear your every move. Many people think that when the Alexa device is powered off, it cannot hear what you hearing. People are starting to question if this is really question and wonder where these conversations go once they occur and the Alexa speaker considers them. In a 2015 murder case, police asked Amazon for access to the voice recordings in the Alexa speaker that was at the place of the crime. This could be a violation of the first amendment and saying that the private conversations people have at their homes are protected by the first amendment whether or not the speaker captures them. People should have the right to the privacy of their own home and the privacy of their technological devices but in times of need like this one, they information should be given to the government. FBI wanted Apple to create a software to hack an iPhone but Apple understandably denied. If a hacker got their hands on the software if it was ever made, all iPhone users would be at risk of having their information stolen. Amazon makes another argument that searching Alexa’s storage is under the same category as searching a drawer, pocket, or glove compartment. “Smart” electronic devices contain many data. People always store their personal information in things like a desk or safe and do this on their cell phones even more than in a desk. If there is valid reasons and perhaps even a warrant, the government should have the right to access information. The speech from Alexa should be heard as coming from Amazon itself. Amazon is essentially claiming Alexa to have the same rights as a person so the government should not be able to access the voice recordings. Opinions would most definitely be split in any case like this and Amazon had been good about cooperation with problems involving Alexa.

  9. Matthew Talarico March 3, 2017 at 8:47 pm #

    I did not even have to read the article to know what kind of article this was going to be. Buzzfeed News tends to release news that is unimportant and necessarily not relevant. Their sources and their writers are not reliable at all, which is why I decided not to take this article seriously. If this article was from The Wall Street Journal, or some other reliable news source, I would have taken it into consideration, or even accepted it as true. Buzzfeed News is concerned with the people and its target audience, not the government or the widespread public.

    To the content of the article. I can see the argument that since Alexa is property of the owner that the government should not be allowed to intervene. I immediately thought of the case where the federal government wanted to get into the phone of the San Bernardinho shooter. Getting access was very simple for them, and they were able to do so in the name of terrorism. Why is the government allowed to access anything in the name of terrorism and homeland security, but when it comes to homidicde, why are they not allowed to gain access? I think that is representative of the mentality of the government, and its values. Killing in the name of another ethinicity should not mean more than killing someone out because of something else. Either way, they are both dead, and that is all that matters.

    The Constitution is very vague, and is meant to be up for interpretation. How these constitutional laws are interpreted can vary based on who is in office, and the political culture in America. Since AI is a very new technology, I expect a lot of Supreme Court cases to determine and shape the culture of technology in the United States. The founding fathers did not anticipate this technology, which is why there is not a lot of constitutional law regarding legislation. I like the fact that the constitutional is vague, so it can be interpreted to fit times like this.

  10. Jacob Hoelting March 3, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    Freedom of speech is something everyone is arguing about and what United States on every level is trying to find out what is protected under the first amendment with this new technology. In this case, the police of Bentonville, Arkansas issued a warrant to Amazon stating that they required the release of the recordings of an Arkansas man’s Amazon Echo in the findings of a homicide. Amazon, however, rejected the request stating that, although he is accused of murder, it is the man’s first amendment right to have those recordings on the Amazon Echo, all of which is explained in elaborate detail in Amazon’s 90 page brief. They argue that a person should not fear what he/she is saying to his/her AI machine in the comfort and security of his/her own home just because it could be used against them in court if they are accused of a crime. Personally, I agree with Amazon. The police department of any city in the United States of America have no right to limit what the citizens say and if they were given, the power to search Amazon’s Echo this would set a precedent for all new technology allowing the government to power to look and effectively control the speech of their citizens. This would be the result because people would fear what they say to Alexa on the Amazon Echo so much that they would limit themselves in what they say and give up their first amendment rights to freedom of speech, which should never happen in the United States of America. What are the citizens of the United States of America to do at this point? Fear that what they are saying in the privacy and comfort of their own homes could possible used against them in the event of them possibly being accused of a crime? There is something utterly wrong with this: from the beginning of this great nation, the founding fathers agreed that every citizen should have the right to freedom of speech and people afraid they will be prosecuted for what they say in their own houses and limiting their speech would make all of the founding fathers turn in their grave. We, as citizens of the United States of America, would then have to fear that all of our other freedoms and rights would be trampled on by the government, which would create the nation that we fought against some 240 some odd years ago. As a nation, we need to rally behind Amazon in the battle to tell the government that our rights and freedoms will not be stomped out. Amazon did comply with the Bentonville, Arkansas police department on the stances like giving up the purchase information from the accused murder, but firmly drew the line between that and the man’s freedom of speech. This is the kind of institution that Citizens of the United States of America want: companies and businesses that stand up for the rights and freedoms of their customers. It is unethical, not to mention unconstitutional, that the government demands the audio recordings of Amazon’s Echo to further incriminate the man accused of homicide.

  11. Filip Bizek March 3, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    Technology brought tremendous benefits to our society. Its impact is almost unimaginable to fully comprehend. We grew so dependent on the computerized devices that it is difficult to imagine life without them. Nonetheless, where sun shines, a shadow is also casted. In other words, just like everything else in life, technology also has its negatives. Alexa is one the newest voice assistant speakers propelled by Amazon. Undisputedly speaking, it is technology of the future, which will make consumers life much easier. However, such devices have a significant opportunity cost to it. Alexa stores all the things you say in its internal data storage. On the first glance, this does not seem like a negative. Why would anyone care if Alexa records everything you say? Well, we are already in the midst of war between the right to privacy and technological advances, therefore, such device can potentially infringe our rights granted by the First and the Fourth Amendments.

    In 2015, James Bates was charged with a murder and the police department issued a search warrant for the contents of Bates’ Echo speaker. Amazon denied the access to the speaker content since they believe that all the records are protected by the free speech under the First Amendment. In the case brief, Amazon argued the following, “Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising the First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home, conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution.” Some may argue that Amazon is in the wrong because the information stored on Alexa may define if James Bates is guilty or innocent. However, in this case, it is pivotal to look at the bigger picture. As our technological progression is only becoming more robust, we cannot pay for it with our Constitutional rights. I fear what might happen if Amazon were to lose this case. Where would be the limit between what governmental entities can and cannot? Also, when examining this problem, it is important to look and the whole history. Undisputedly, we already gave up a lot of privacy rights with the introduction of internet, cell-phones, and other devices. Thus, we have to be careful and support companies such as Amazon who are reluctant to so easily give up on what is ours.

    This topic made me think about the recent problems surrounding the Supreme Court Justices. Just recently, Donald Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch for the Justice position left open after Antonin Scalia’s death. Some people are for or against him based on his previous record as a judge and his originalist beliefs. However, congress or the media never asked the most important question involving the future. What is his position on technology and government slowly erasing the right to our privacy? Is it not an important issue? As I read more about such issues, I am becoming more fearful about my rights, which I never expected to be in danger. Perhaps, we became too passive with our rights to privacy since majority of us never experienced a time when they did not exist. Nonetheless,

  12. Thomas Batelli March 10, 2017 at 2:37 pm #

    It is interesting, and somewhat scary, to be forced to decipher the true justice in a situation like this one. Artificial Intelligence imposes many obstacles to our traditional judicial system and that is why it is so critical that we, as human beings, understand the importance of not getting too far “ahead” of ourselves. If the will for Artificial Intelligence actually persists past proper law enforcement and human intelligence, there will be a complete imbalance and tragedy will result. Of course there is plenty of benefit from Artificial Intelligence devices such as Siri, and the Amazon Echo’s Alexa, but convenience does not trump the importance of our natural human values.

    I thought that this case was specifically interesting because I, personally, was on both sides of the fence. I can absolutely see the importance of deciphering who the murderer was and seeking justice through obvious evidence, however, I do see the other side of the respect of our amendment rights. It’s amazing that Amazon was so involved in the situation. I was surprised alone that the information that Alexa collects were protected free speech. I have lack of trust of that statement to be true entirely but I certainly respect that Amazon contended with a 90-page brief. I also found it interesting that in a case such as this one, Amazon has a say over the products being handed over to law enforcement after the devices had already been sold. It would be one thing for them to have a say over private account information, however the actual devises that lie within the murderer’s house- I just find that to be interesting, to say the least.

    It is a scary world when it comes to situations like these with Artificial Intelligence devices because you never know what the ethical thing to do is. Technology does have a way of making things more convenient, but on the other hand, even more complicated. However, to think of this specific case from another perspective proves truth too; if law enforcement were allowed to have access to the recordings and information of all people that converse with Artificial Intelligence devices, would we have no first amendment, technically? There is a lot of grey area in these types of situations because we are most often now dealing with situations that people have not been faced with yet. Technology is not always the safest bet, and I think that is often overlooked.

    Perhaps if we, as humans, were not so reliant on technology, many of these situations could be avoided. Of course, there is plenty of room for advancement and change in the world; however, I think that getting too far ahead of us, as a species, could ironically be our downfall. Unfortunately, the truth of it lies in the money, and until there is no greed and money is not of the highest value, people will still be people and seek for nothing other than their best interest. As the rate of advancement continues to speed up, we will be faced with so many of these types of situations, so it’s best we’re prepared to face them.

  13. Alex Strom March 15, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    Problems that occur in the United States are always so dynamic and always changing, so it is important that we stay true to our core values and beliefs. Once we start to veer away from the Constitution, we begin to become vulnerable to being controlled by our government. Once we give up our rights in one scenario, it becomes a slippery slope. That is why it is important that we protect and exercise all of our rights, so we maintain the idea of freedom in our country. I strongly encourage Amazons efforts to maintain the rights of all their users.
    Amazon shows their strong support for the First Amendment, by not giving law enforcement recordings from an Amazon product that may help solve a murder case. The police department issued a search warrant for James Bates’ speaker after he was charged for murder, but Amazon replied with a 90 page brief, contending that the recordings were protected under the First Amendment by the freedom of speech. Amazon argued that this chilled the First Amendment, because it limited user’s freedom of speech at places like home. Amazon has sold out of this product after the holiday season even after increased production, so if Amazon loses this case it can have a huge impact by damaging the trust from the user. Amazon cites Riley V California, which basically says that you need a specific warrant to search electronic devices, it is not the same as searching a drawer. Amazon emphasized their support of the First Amendment, by saying people have the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery. This is similar to the Monica Lewinsky situation, where the court ruled the First Amendment protected her from handing over records of purchases from a bookstore, which she later handed in willingly. Amazon is doing their best to protect the rights of their users, which makes me feel a little bit better.
    In this new and changing world, there are problems that arise that no one could have predicted. Our founding fathers never would have guessed that in the year 2017, we would have electric cars, cell phones, internet accessibility and hover boards. Just how they could never predict the future, we cannot either. We do not know what turn we are going to take a country, or even as a world, so it is important that we stay true to our core values and maintain our basic rights. There are going to be new laws formed every year, so we need to make sure that all these laws keep up with our basic rights granted from the Constitution. If one of our rights gets taken away, it is not going to be long before the next one goes. This is a very slippery slope, so we as a society have to ensure that we do not go down that path. There are always going to be laws that we may believe to be unjust, so we must work as a society together to fix those problems. The United States law system is no where near perfect, so we must continue to work and make it better. As a society, we have come a long way since first making the Constitution. We went from only white males getting rights to all men and women, of every race and color. We have taken a step backward with Donald Trump as our president, because he is now “banning immigrants” from entering the U.S. This is a huge infringement on many citizens rights, because there are many cases where U.S. citizens are banned from entering back into the United States because they have dual citizenship. Some people were not allowed to go back to their home, where they had a job they needed to perform and a house to pay bills for. If we stay true to the constitution, we will be able to advance as a society properly. We will not be able to properly progress if our rights are infringed, so we must fight to keep them alive.

  14. Adara Gonzalez March 16, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

    With all of these extreme advancements technology has taken, greater my fear of the domination of what was once inanimate. I have constantly questioned the freedom and liberty in using one’s own piece of technology, especially with the floating statements of the NSA’s spying on the American people through any technological means. Amazon stating that they will hold their Alexa product to the first amendment not only reinforces the trust in their customers and their target group, but also creates interest into those who were inclined to ignore the existence of the product. The interest is not found in those who wish to get away with murder, but those who were once and still are cautious of privacy in technology. This new spark of interest will definitely increase the market for those who feared the growing intelligence in technology, and creates a closer connection to the big company Amazon. Amazon sticking to the first amendment protects the user from having the government use their item against them, in this case a trial for murder. The Buzzfeed News article quoted from Amazon’s legal team, “At the heart of that First Amendment protection is the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery.” The article continues on and elaborates on the term “expressive materials”, a means in which products like books and music fall under the “freedom of inquiry” which then falls under the defense of the first amendment, which is what Amazon strives for in their products, to be categorized as “freedom of inquiry”. Although, this being Amazon’s first case in which the privacy of their products is in question, it might not have been for the best that it would land on a murder trial. Many questions arise as to the possibility of Amazon’s Echo holding the resolution of the question of the murder, and Amazon’s stubbornness of retaining onto that groundbreaking information. Another question arises, how long and how hard will Amazon hold on to their privacy statement? Not wanting to downgrade the gravity of a murder, but there are certainly other serious situations that may happen and authorities would turn to Amazon’s Echo for an answer. For example, a question of national security and espionage, would Amazon still hold on as strong as their first day and claim to absolute privacy under the first amendment? How far is too far for Amazon to hold onto their privacy phase? In my personal opinion, I hope that they stick to their words and keep completely private whatever information both the Alexa and Echo is able to record. In the constantly changing and advancing world, technology could easily be used and pinned against its maker, and we are already enslaved to the power of technology as it is. Should we let it enslave us even further? We have become so reliant on ease that these technological advancements have brought us, and Amazon knows how much we depend on their products, and has decided to keep safe bliss found in the use of their technology. Amazon realizes the gravity and the power their products hold and decided to take a stand and ensure confidence to the people that Amazon, along with their products are safe against any authority. Here’s to hoping that this is not a phase and in fact, we will continue to see various Amazon products to hold truth to the privacy claims of Amazon Echo.

  15. Jevon Mitchell March 17, 2017 at 7:11 pm #

    The Amazon Echo has been under a lot of speculation lately but this is not uncommon for this kind of technology. The reason that it has caused so much controversy is because of a video that recently surfaced on the internet. In the video, the user first turns on the Echo by saying the activation words Hi Alexa. It recognizes the user’s voice and turns itself on, now allowing the user to ask any question that it is looking for the answer to. The first question that the user asks Alexa on video is “Would you ever lie to me?” Of course, Alexa answers that question by stating that it would never lie intentionally and that it tries to tell the truth. Though this seems like a great question to ask, it was actually only a question which helped set up the next question that the user asks. Unsatisfied with the previous answer that they received the user then proceeds to ask Alexa another question, but this time it is much more sensitive. After responding that it would never lie Alexa is asked, “Are you connected to the CIA?” Without saying anything, the Echo mysteriously turns off. To prove that it was not just a glitch or some kind of trick the user asks the Echo the same questions again, multiple times, and continuously receives the same result. I thought this to be extremely sketchy.
    Intrigued, I immediately had to look further into this incident and this article has only sparked additional interest in the topic. What I found after researching what happened in that case, I found speculation that claims that the entire video is a hoax. Many believe that the Amazon Echo in question was in fact a specially programmed Echo, set to turn off when it recognizes certain words. The person who filmed the video ensures the internet that it is in fact not a hoax and that this was a real experience, making the situation even scarier. This sparked debate all over the internet with some saying that they experienced the same responses when testing the situation on their own devices at home. It would not be alarming if the Echo was in fact connected to the CIA as the owner of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has a $600 million dollar contract with the CIA. The alarming part is that the device completely shuts down when asked this question. It makes it seem as though they do not want customers to know of their alliance, which in itself is not an ethical business practice. It has only made the users of the Amazon echo more suspicious and paranoid about their devices. It is safe to say that the users that have experienced these fishy responses will watch what they say around their device and will hopefully continue to inform others if the responses are in fact real and not a hoax.

  16. Austin O'Reilly March 18, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    Amazons speaker, known as the Alexa, is a controversial product. Since I know many people that have an Alexa, I have noticed that the speaker can literally listen to every word at all times. I thought to myself what the speaker does with all of the conversations it listens to, does it store them in some cloud storage somewhere or does it not store them at all. In a past murder case in November 2015, the police wanted amazon to give them access to Alexa’s voice recordings to help them solve the case. Amazon is arguing that this is a violation of the first amendment by saying, “Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising their First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home, conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution. “I agree that the people should have the right to the privacy of their technological devices, and in a times such as these, Amazon must hold their ground. In controversial cases like the one apple had last year when the FBI wanted Apple to create a software to hack an iPhone, it was understandable for Apple to deny them. Creating a software to hack the iPhone could have turned catastrophic. If a hacker got their hands on this software, all iPhone users could have been at risk of having their information stolen. Another argument Amazon makes is, “searching Alexa’s recordings is not the same as searching a drawer, a pocket, or a glove compartment. Like cell phones, such modern ‘smart’ electronic devices contain a multitude of data that can ‘reveal much more in combination than any isolated record,’ allowing those with access to it to reconstruct ‘[t]he sum of an individual’s private life.’” I agree with this statement because a person’s cell phone is not the same as a draw was years ago. Years ago, people would store their personal information in things like a desk or drawl or safe, and now in modern society, a cell phone serves as this purpose. Therefore, the government should not have the right to access information on a person’s phone because there is so much more information on a phone that could never be found in a draw. An iPhone should not be compared with a draw, because a draw could not fit 1/100 of the information an iPhone could tell you. Amazon also claims that Alexa’s speech should be heard as coming from Amazon itself: “the response constitutes Amazon’s First Amendment-protected speech.” Here amazon is essentially claiming Alexa to have the same rights as a person, so the government should not be able to access the voice recordings. This case is quite controversial, and if many people were asked, opinions would probably be split down the middle. Amazon should not cooperate and protect its users from police agencies from overstepping their authority. Once Police agencies are given access to voice files from devices like Alexa there is no telling what is next.

  17. Taylor Salomon March 22, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

    Why are Amazon and the first amendment used in the same sentence? The article titled “Amazon Says Your Alexa Recordings Are Protected By The First Amendment” explores the situation where Amazon refuses to give law enforcement Amazon Echo recording and responses that may help police solve a murder case. In November 2015, James Bates was charged for murdering Walmart colleague Victor Collins. Before reading the case, I was wondering why Amazon would withhold information that could potentially free a man of murder conviction. There is a good reason to withhold private files because Amazon Echo is protected under the first amendment- freedom of speech. Amazon’s legal team also argued, “At the heart of that First Amendment protection is the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery.” In addition, Bates LG Nexus cell phone cannot go under investigation if the Alexa application has been downloaded. The only thing that Amazon has released is Bates’ purchase history and account information.
    During this lawsuit, Amazon is faced with a lot of backlash. Here is a brief background of Alexa. This voice- over electronic device is becoming more popular by the minute. During the 2016 holidays, the company sold out. It is clear that this product is dominant in American homes. As Alexa sits on top of the fireplace or kitchen counter, she is becoming a part of the Johnson or Smith household. If the government gets its hands on Echo recordings, then this event could damage trust in Alexa.
    As several courts face this issue, the United States’ Supreme Court ruled “warrantless searches of electronic devices and digital records” as unconstitutional. It further states “searching Alexa’s recordings is not the same as searching a drawer, a pocket, or a glove compartment. Like cell phones, such modern ‘smart’ electronic devices contain a multitude of data that can ‘reveal much more in combination than any isolated record,’ allowing those with access to it to reconstruct ‘[t]he sum of an individual’s private life.’”
    I no longer side with Amazon as the company attempts to classify Alexa’s recording to the equivalency of “expressive materials”. It is important to note that expressive materials classify as books, music, and podcasts. Why would Amazon go in this direction? Does Amazon Echo really think it is smart to compared a smart device like Amazon Echo to a one dimensional book? That is where Amazon completely lost me. Amazon backed up its statement to former president Bill Clinton’s impeachment. He states investigators demanded that a bookstore hand over records of purchases made by Monica Lewinsky, but courts ruled that her “freedom of inquiry,” protected by her right to freedom of speech, required law enforcement demonstrate that they really, truly needed those records.
    BuzzFeed News Reporter Blake Montgomery points out two sides of this situation. One is being the good guy and handing over the recordings to the Bentonville police. On the other hand, Amazon can be the bad guy and withhold the information on the grounds of the first amendment. This is in favor of the consumer’s privacy and freedom of speech. Student Julian Marzano examines the extent of consumer’s privacy. He states “there is no clear-cut line that allows one’s privacy and first amendment to be violated for a higher circumstance, and I believe there should not be one. If there is a precedent set, it will only be a matter of time before it changes and becomes looser and allows people’s privacy to be violated.
    I think, just like in the case of Apple, Amazon made a great move by keeping their customer’s best interests in mind when making this decision. They understand that their customers value privacy and by making one exception in this murder case, they would open the door for potential other cases of having to violate their customer’s privacy.” Student Jonathan Cavallone disagrees by stating “in a time of need such as this, information should be forked up to the government. In cases like the one apple had last year when the FBI wanted Apple to create a software to hack an iPhone, it was understandable for Apple to deny them. Creating a software to hack the iPhone could have turned catastrophic. If a hacker got their hands on this software, all iPhone users could have been at risk of having their information stolen. Another argument Amazon makes is, “searching Alexa’s recordings is not the same as searching a drawer, a pocket, or a glove compartment. Like cell phones, such modern ‘smart’ electronic devices contain a multitude of data that can ‘reveal much more in combination than any isolated record,’ allowing those with access to it to reconstruct ‘[t]he sum of an individual’s private life.’” I disagree with this statement because a person’s cell phone is similar to a draw years ago. Years ago, people would store their personal information in things like a desk or drawl or safe, and now in modern society, a cell phone serves as this purpose. Therefore, the government should have the right to access information on a person’s phone if there is valid reasons and perhaps even a warrant.” Both students are correct, but I would have to side with Anthony. A man’s life is on the line and if Alexa can free him, then by all means should this device be handed over to the government.

  18. Peter DeSantis March 24, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

    New issues regarding privacy safety have surfaced since the rise of digital assistants. These assistant devices can connect to all the other devices and accounts that the user owns in order to keep all virtual activities in one organized place. The most notable ones are Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Home, and Amazon’s Alexa and Echo. These devices are activated by the voice commands of the user, which allow him to accomplish digital tasks hands-free. Questions have been raised mostly revolving around the most famous of these devices, Amazon’s Alexa. Consumers are curious as to when the device actually stops listening or if it never stops listening. The device can turn on with just a voice command; no manual flip of a switch is required. So if the device is constantly in a sort of “sleep” mode then it is not so outlandish to believe that Alexa is literally always listening to its users.

    Another issue is that the government wants to gain access to the recordings collected by Alexa and other digital assistant devices. Amazon has thus far refused to grant the government this information; however, it is an ongoing legal situation with new developments in each new case. The government wants the information in order to help them solve criminal cases, but it is apparent that Amazon does not want to be of any assistance in this process. Amazon argues that the recordings and content stored on their digital assistant devices are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The tech conglomerate argues that if they were to give the government backdoor access, even if only with a warrant, that it would take away the right of the people to freely express themselves even in the comfort of their own homes.

    Despite the fact that most of the time I am for deregulation and limited government, in this case, I am in disagreement with Amazon. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the government should be allowed access to the data captured by Alexa not only if it is going to aid in the solving of a case, but also if it would help in the prevention of criminal activity. I think that as long as the federal government or one of its agencies can provide probable cause along with a warrant that they should be granted full access to relevant materials. I am more than willing to sacrifice a few of my own civil liberties to ensure the protection and safety of the general public.

    Do I think that the government should have unrestricted backdoor access to all the recordings and responses of any user gathered by digital assistants? No, of course I do not for that would be a blatant invasion of privacy and complete overstepping of power and authority on part of the government. I think that people need to feel safe and secure when speaking and using electronic devices, but at the same token, there must be a way in which these devices can be utilized to catch and prevent criminals. I am confident that there will be one, high profile case that makes its way to the United States Supreme Court relating to the authority of the government when dealing with voice recordings on these new electronic devices. The outcome of that case will set the precedent for the future, and I hope that it allows the government access so long as they have a warrant.

  19. Frankie Lisa March 24, 2017 at 9:32 pm #

    As technology gets smarter and makes our lives more convenient, our privacy often decreases. Now, new technologies such as Amazon’s Echo speaker can hear our voice and listen to our commands without having to press a single button. This kind of artificial intelligence is growing and becoming more and more popular every day. However, we are still learning the capabilities of this technology, and its growth rate often beats the rate at which laws and regulations for this type of technology are set. The perfect example of this scenario is the murder case of Victor Collins. Collins was murdered in the home of James Bates in Arkansas. Bates owned an echo speaker which was plugged in and listening at the time of Collins’ death. The police issued a search warrant for the contents of Bates’ speaker, but Amazon refused. Amazon claimed that contents recorded by Alexa are protected under our first amendment freedom of speech right.
    I think the most socking part about this case is what it taught us about the capabilities of the Amazon Echo. For example, I did not know that the Echo is always listening to our voice in order to register commands. The most shocking thing I did not know is that the Echo not only listens to our conversations, but it also saves them on a database.
    If the government requires Amazon to hand over the contents of Bates’ speaker, there will be dangerous ramifications. I think this case is similar to the Patriot Act which was imposed after the September eleventh terrorist attacks. The government has access to all of our emails and phone calls, but they only listen to conversations that arouse suspicion of terrorist activity. They are not allowed to use anything else as evidence. For example, no police department can request a warrant to listen to the phone calls of a murder suspect. We are protected under the first amendment. But if any time a crime is committed, the police search the contents of our technology and listen to all of our conversations. This would be a huge violation of our privacy and first amendment rights. I am already uncomfortable with the idea of a speaker listening to every word I say, but I am afraid of a device that not only listens to, but saves my conversations. If amazon is required to turn over the contents of Bates’ Echo, it will not only ostracize the Amazon Echo, but it will stunt the growth of the artificial intelligence industry. Researchers and developers are making progress every day in the capabilities of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence has incredible capabilities that could greatly benefit the United States, so it would be a shame to see all of this progress amount to nothing because of privacy concerns.

  20. Gabriel Gonzales October 6, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

    I’ve been keeping up with the Bates’s murder case, and Amazon’s refusal to release AmazonEcho recordings. When I last heard about the case, state prosecutors got a subpoena for the recordings, yet Amazon is standing firm with their decision not to comply. The article states Amazon is exercising their First Amendment right, which they are interpreting as their right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery. I feel that Amazon taking a stand for not only its own brand, but the consumer is admirable. Staying face in the face of not only federal but social scrutiny is not an easy task. This is not the first case of its kind to come into public view. In specific, the Apple case against the FBI. The arrested a man on charges proving involvement in the San Bernardino shootings. The FBI believed that evidence lie in a locked phone of the said suspect. The perpetrator gave no consent to open the phone so the FBI requested Apple open it. Essentially, Apple would leave a backdoor in the software in order to access the phone without the passcode. Apple denied their request and have been in a legal dispute ever since.

    The parallels with these cases are that Apple as well exercised its First Amendment right. They claimed that creating a passcode is almost like saying I don’t want anyone to invade my property just as Amazon is doing with the AmazonEcho recordings. I feel not only Amazon and Apple, but technology corporations alike are trying to take a stand against privacy invasion. This is not only for their brand for the protection of their consumers. They are saying, “any business you do between us, stays between us”. I always appreciate when companies take a stand for their consumers. They don’t always, but when their values align with the consumer and business, they are willing to go to war, which they are.

    Amazon is still standing firm on their decision not to release the recording to the prosecutor, and I feel that legality wise, this opens up so many avenues for technology companies they would not want to open up. This essentially becomes precedent for all other companies who try to protect the brand and its consumers. Now this case would end up being another federal agencies legal citation to release private information. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not on the outside looking in and in a murder case everyone wants justice. At the same time there have to be limits. I feel privacy invasion shouldn’t be the go to answer.

  21. Ryan McFadden October 7, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

    The argument Amazon is making here is very disturbing, essentially they are saying that their sales of Alexa and other goods is far more important that giving over evidence of a crime. Evidence that has been requested through a warrant, not just a local official or police officer. This falls exactly in the same realm as the San Bernardino terrorist case where Apple refused to unlock the phone so federal officials could investigate a TERRORIST attack. I could partially agree with Apple and in this case Amazon if officials were trying to look into someones purchases for no reason, however this is not the case at all. In Amazon’s case this is a murder.

    By claiming this as a 1st Amendment issue, Amazon is completely misconstruing the 1st Amendment. Their claim that, “At the heart of that First Amendment protection is the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery.” (quote is from the article) is completely off base. No where in the 1st Amendment does it guarantee the right that the government will not find out what you are saying, thinking or doing. The 1st Amendment ensures the government will not prohibit free speech and will not take action against most speech. The 1st Amendment has no say in whether the government can or cannot listen to the speech of a private person. This case does however, fall directly in the jurisdiction of the 4th and 14th Amendments.

    The 4th Amendment ensures that the government cannot search or seize peoples property without a warrant from a judge. This is exactly where the problem lies with both Amazon and Apple’s arguments. In both cases, the government had warrants to search the electronic devices. As the 4th Amendment states, there must be probable cause to have a warrant issued. Terrorism and murder are two really good instances of probable cause. So by Amazon and Apple disregarding the federal governments warrants, they themselves are breaking the law and creating a constitutional issue themselves.

    Finally, I bring in the 14th Amendment which ensures that all Americans are under the federal governments jurisdiction and are held to the same standard by the federal government; states must also hold their citizens to the same standard and not infringe upon their rights as an American. This is another place where Amazon and Apple are potentially creating another constitutional issue. By saying the government cannot compel them to unlock devices they created even with a lawful warrant, essentially they are saying that the people they are investigating or the devices themselves fall outside of their jurisdiction. This is a major issue when private companies fail to respond accordingly to the governments lawful and constitutional orders.

    By claiming unlocking Alexa is a 1st Amendment issue, Amazon is wrongfully fighting the federal government. By doing so they are creating two other constitutional issues. Since when does a private company get to decide what evidence the federal government can and cannot acquire, regardless of what device it is on.

  22. Joseph Sada February 28, 2018 at 10:04 pm #

    Debating the first amendment and all of its legalities could take forever to do and it has been a common theme for the past couple of decades. The first amendment is freedom of speech and we have the right to say what we want without consequences because that is what the law states. Whatever one says in the comfort of their own home is for their ears only and the people who are in the room. With Alexa, the Amazon assistant, being in the house, nothing is private because she picks up everything that is said. Alexa must be ready to perform any possible command, so she always needs to be listening. Same situation with the iPhone’s, Siri is always listening to everything that is being said because Siri needs to do what is said. With that being said, our devices basically record every single thing we say, the question is, does it go anywhere?
    Amazon’s Echo will not hand over the voice recordings made by James Bates. Bates was charged with murder of his friend, Victor Collins. It was a very smart move by Amazon that they would not give the police the voice recordings because that defeats the whole purpose of the first amendment. If that was the case, so many innocent people would be convicted of murder because people say the craziest things nowadays and every device is listening. In reality, these devices can be used against us whenever they want, but Amazon will not allow that. It is such a great, leading decision by Amazon by telling the police they will not hand over the recordings to not per say save Bates, but to protect his rights.
    Amazon made a great case by saying that taking their voice messages is completely different from looking inside a drawer or looking inside their pockets. They also mentioned a previous court case to help their argument, which was also a smart move by Amazon. Amazon is doing everything they could to prevent destroying Bates’ first amendment and they are doing it in a major way. Of course Amazon handed the police the previous records of purchases, but that wouldn’t tell police much.
    It is just shocking that a device could be used to help a criminal investigation. If one said that years ago, we would of all looked at the person and told them they were ridiculous. One would tend to rule out anything that has to do with devices when it comes to investigations. There is no room for that in the courtroom. People say idiotic things sometimes in their home that they do not want anyone hearing that could be taken as a threat. We should not use this because it is unfair to the population and it is pleasure to hear that Amazon stands up for the people. This is a case were the Amazon Echo should be left out of and the police should focus mainly on the facts and the real investigations they tend to do when looking for evidence on a criminal.

  23. Lucas Notarianni March 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    I am glad that I came across Blake Montgomery’s article because I have a home device and I hope that my recordings and responses will be kept in private as a First Amendment right. I have a Google home assistant and at times I feel uncomfortable by it. I know these devices are not recording until given their respective commands, but if I say something close to Google, my home pod will go off. They have excellent hearing as well. For example, I can talk in a normal pitch from one side of the house and the pod will go off in the other. All of these recordings are accessible and can be deleted by the user when they go on their device history selection if they wanted the information deleted. I do not know if Amazon or Google or the other companies store the information in their systems that can possibly be accessed again though. Either way, if James Bates’ trial creates a legal battle for Amazon on its device voice activity, I would hope that the recordings are interrupted as a First Amendment right or I would question owning these types of products in fear of being spied on.
    I know that the devices are not supposed to record until the command, but they are always listening. Even if I do not have anything to hide, I feel like it would be an invasion of privacy. Sometimes I wonder when my Google home assistant turns on without my command if someone is hacking into it. People have the same issues about computers and their cameras also. I do not feel like the government should step into our personal lives this deep and access all the daily activities I do on them. It would become a situation where “Big Brother” is always watching and I would most likely give the product away because it is simply a convenience item anyway that could turn into a spy item.
    Technology is expanding and becoming more personal through the years through “smart” products that are so new that the government is behind in defining regulations and standards that they feel are necessary. As Montgomery said that the Amazon Alexa is selling out over the 2016 winter, even though there is no privacy measure established yet. The day the government can use the device for trials is he day that there will be thousands of these devices in the trash, slowing down the potential of personal technology. All in all, people like their privacy and the Amazon Alexa’s recordings should be seen as a First Amendment right in my eyes.

  24. John Skalski October 19, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    Technology is amazing and needs to be used for advantages especially in this case with Alexa. I was very surprised to read that Amazon would not turn over recordings that could help in a murder case. I completely respect Amazon for denying to do so that they can protect our first Amendment right, because if they turn the recordings over in this situation then they will have to turn it over in every other situation. Nevertheless, I believe why even make Alexa able to record conversations if you will not use that to your advantage. A significant amount of people already know that the United States Government is spying on us, so why would in this situation anything be different. Amazon has recordings that could be very important in solving a murder case so they need to turn it over and move on. Why would Amazon even allow Alexa to make recordings if they will not take those recordings to help out other people. What was the point of making Alexa being able to record people? Was it just for fun, or something else that Amazon does not want to share with people. I think Amazon should turn in the recordings so that they can help to get this case solved.
    On another important note, I think that it really does stink that we live in a country where privacy is really starting to go away. Amazon was able to create this really cool invention, in Alexa, but the downside is that it can record us and we are never alone. Alexa is not the only thing that is able to record us nowadays, because basically anything that is technology related can track us and send that information to people that want it. In some situations, this can be a good thing because maybe you want people to know where you are at, but the bad thing is the fact that we are never in private. Technology has gotten to the point where we will never be alone and always have someone watching us through whatever device we have. Always remember technology is really good until it goes against you because it knows what you did.

  25. KConrad October 19, 2018 at 1:45 pm #

    I can understand why Amazon would fight this battle because what manufacturer would want to easily give over information that could cause consumers to lose trust in their product? People are already skeptical of what is being recorded and could possibly be later used against them. People’s expectation when they purchase an item, such as the echo,s is that their privacy would be protected.

    While I think we have a right to privacy I also think that we as consumers have to be very careful as to how we use technology. We can never just expect that our activity on any device is ours alone. Once it is put into cyberspace it belongs to those who know how to manipulate it as well as those who may know how to use it to their advantage, such as law enforcement. Not only do we have to be concerned with government but there’s also the possibility that regular citizens may have knowledge that can get them access to our information without our permission. There is a need for prospective buyers to know what the possibilities are when it comes to what they think may be protected or what they think is private. Just because something is in your home or on a device that “belongs” to you does not mean that it cannot be used against you at some point.

    It was interesting to see that in this particular case the individual that was being accused of murder did later hand over the data from his Echo device even though Amazon’s legal team did not see the legal basis for him to have to do so (The Verge, March 2017). Equally interesting was seeing that a judge later dropped the charges against James Bates (CNN, December 2017). I will be keeping watch to see how this First Amendment fiasco plays out.

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