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Is there an Echo in here?

Lardiere McNair prides itself on fighting for and defending the privacy rights of its clients. With the ever-changing technological landscape, those privacy rights become more and more difficult to protect.

You’ve probably heard by now about Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot, which uses the virtual assistant “Alexa”.  Amazon Echo is a hands free, so when you say “Alexa”, the device will immediately respond.  Echo can help you manage your calendar, play music, provide news and weather information, answer questions, and a whole lot more.

Because Echo is activated by its name, it is always listening for it.  However, after hearing that “wake word”, Echo will also record that data, which is stored at Amazon facilities.  Thus, Echo ends up recording a fair amount of data.

Recently, in Bentonville, Arkansas, a man was found murdered in the hot tub at his friend’s house.  That house happened to be equipped with an Amazon Echo.  As the police investigated they scene, they noticed that “Alexa” was present and wondering whether it may have inadvertently picked up some clues to the murder.  Thus, they have subpoenaed Amazon for the records.  Currently, Amazon is refusing to hand over the records.

Whether or not Amazon is required to comply with this subpoena will have far-reaching consequences.  Technology like the Echo will only become more prevalent in American households.  Just how private those communications are will be up to the Courts.

Our firm wants all of our clients to be aware that there is very little precedent in this area of the law, and it is evolving quickly.  You should be conscious if you have an Echo, or similar product, in your home, as the privacy of those communications are still unknown.   It is always better to be prepared than to be scrambling after you need help.

Chad Stonebrook is an Associate at Lardiere McNair, LLC.  To read more about our firm, please visit www.lmcounsel.com.

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