Add yet another skill to Alexa’s repertoire: staunch defense of the First Amendment.
Amazon is holding firm and refusing to hand over voice and transcription data recorded by an Echo speaker to prosecutors in Arkansas as part of a murder trial.
Amazon maintains the authorities haven’t clearly established that the investigation is more important than a customer’s privacy rights, according to an AP report, and claims the recorded data and Alexa’s responses are protected under the First Amendment.
Police first issued a warrant for the data back in December, hoping to gain insight on the hours leading up to the death of Victor Collins in November 2015. The owner of the Echo speaker, James Andrew Bates, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
At that point, an Amazon spokesperson told Mashable, “Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” Amazon reps gave the AP the same statement yesterday after filing the motion.
Specifically, the motion states, “The recordings stored by Amazon for a subscriber’s Echo device will usually be both (1) the user’s speech, in the form of a request for information from Alexa, and (2) a transcript or depiction of the Alexa Voice Service response conveying the information it determines would be most responsive to the user’s query. Both types of information are protected speech under the First Amendment.”
In refusing to hand over the recorded data, Amazon is sticking to its guns. The company said prosecutors must prove the information isn’t available elsewhere before seizing the recorded data, and also requests that the court reviews it before the prosecutors to be sure that it’s actually relevant to the case at hand.
The case is similar to Apple’s legal battle with the FBI in California following the San Bernardino shootings. After the FBI demanded that Apple unlock the shooter’s phone, the company refused, and the two were at a stalemate until the FBI found a different way into the device.