Amazon was recently under a subpoena to release information collected from an Amazon Echo device as it pertains to a murder investigation.
Amazon initially refused to hand over the information citing First Amendment rights but since has given authorities permission to access the data with the defendants permission.
The Amazon Echo speaker was found near the same hot tub where a dead body was found in November of 2015.
These AI or “Artificial Intelligence” devices (although I don’t think they should be categorized as such) are always listening. Ever notice the lack of off switch? The Amazon Echo in particular, advertises it’s “Long Range Microphone”. I use the Echo Dot at home for some music streaming and home automation and I can attest that it hears me from other rooms without an issue.
And look there are dozens of devices that do that these days. Here is a list off the top of my head:
AppleTV (Latest Model w/ Siri Remote)
iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac (Using Siri)
Amazon Fire TV Products
Roku (with microphone in the remote)
Amazon Echo (And any vendor using it)
Microsoft Products (That use Cortana)
So these devices are always listening in on our conversations and now companies like Amazon have admitted that they can provide archives of it. How do you feel about everything you say being recorded somewhere and someone else having the ability to distribute it as they see fit?
The question becomes, What amount of privacy are we willing to give up to have these devices? Surely we enjoy them but at what cost?
Imagine this, one day your device overhears your mention that you’re cold. Suddenly North Face ads begin popping up on your devices. Or how about this one. You scream that you burned yourself and Amazon Prime instantly suggests that you overnight some bandages to you home. Sure it sounds great but how far is too far?
These things are entirely possible now but major companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google aren’t exactly ready to blatantly expose the fact they’ve got more information on you than your closest friends and relatives. Or that they can predict your spending habits better than you can.
Well Amazon took that first step today. Even though the defendant (presumably the owner of the Echo) gave permission for Amazon to release it, the point is they’ve got it. And as we’ve seen there are people that would go great lengths to get that information. Such as the FBI who paid 1.3 million dollars for someone to crack into the iPhone 5c (No Thanks to Apple) in the San Bernardino shootings case. (Yes I know someone else did it shortly after for $100)
So enjoy these devices for now but prepare yourself for a much more difficult conversation that is sure to come.