Amazon Echo James Bates Murder Trial
A satire of James Bates murder trial, where the victim's Amazon Echo speaker may help solve the case. Image Source: The Information

After months of legal disputes, Amazon handed Echo’s data for a murder trial in Arkansas. The defendant James Andrew Bates agreed to the disclosure and Amazon changed its position regarding the trial.

Bates was charged with first-degree murder in 2015 over Victor Collins’ death. Collins was found dead in Bates’ home. The investigators sent a warrant to Amazon after finding the Echo speaker in the house.

The case dates back to November 2015 when according to Bates he invited some friends to watch a football game. Bates said that after the match ended Collins and some other friend were still drinking in the hot tub when he went to bed at 1 am. When Bates woke up, he found Collins’ lifeless body in the water.

Amazon partially complied to the warrant. The company stated that the first amendment protects the user’s queries to devices such as Alexa and Echo. The Echo device is always ‘listening’ until it ‘hears’ the words “Alexa.” Once activated the device starts recording. The information is stored on Amazon servers. The investigators hoped to find details withing Echo’s recordings.

Amazon's Echo Dot Review
Amazon’s Echo Dot Review. Image credit: Amazon.

On February Amazon stated that Bates’ audio files recorded on Echo were protected under the First Amendment.

Amazon has also said that Alexa’s responses are also protected

Last Friday Amazon handed the audio files after Bates consented to it. The company gave the audio recordings from November 21 to 22, 2015. The motion for the case was dismissed, and the hearing session scheduled for Wednesday was called off according to the filing. It appears that Amazon is willing to cooperate in any case as long as the user consents.

James Bates’ attorney, Kathleen Zellner agreed to release the recordings via Twitter, and posted his client James Bates is innocent.

According to the CBS News Correspondent Erin Moriarty, the echo device kept records of the conversations. Said conversations were about football, not murder, though, Moriarty confirms.

The case introduced the legal complications of the internet of things products. User’s privacy is the primary concern for companies over investigations for crimes.

Echo’s case remembered what happened between the FBI and Apple. The FBI tried to force Apple to unlock an iPhone that was allegedly used by a terrorist. The dispute created a legal battle between user’s privacy and security. The argument did not go to court, and it was not decided which one is the priority.

Source: CNET