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Arkansas Cops Request Amazon Echo Data Linked to Hot Tub Murder

Police are turning to the Internet of things as a source of evidence.

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Another battle over data privacy and the Internet of things may be heating up after Amazon have refused to release private user data from an Echo device belonging to a suspected murderer.  Police in Bentonville, Arkansas, issued a warrant demanding that the company turn over audio recordings and other data for an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Last year, Victor Collins was found dead in Bates' hot tub, and police believe that Amazon's digital assistant Alexa may have recorded evidence that would prove that he was murdered by Bates.

Investigators have already used the Internet of things to collect evidence in the case. An internet-connected water meter showed that 140 gallons of water were used during the night of the alleged murder, water that police believe Bates used to hose down his patio to clean up the crime scene. Police now want data from the Amazon Echo, to see if anyone had activated the device and created an audio recording of the night's events.

Amazon did provide police with some information about Bates' account, but declined to release the voice recordings made by the Echo. In a statement, the company said that it “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 is joining the ranks of technology companies that have refused to release private user data to law enforcement agencies. Apple has recently come to legal blows with the Department of Justice over their refusal to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter, as well as other phones belonging to criminal suspects. Microsoft has also challenged the DOJ over data privacy, refusing to release emails in a 2013 case, arguing that the emails were out of US jurisdiction because the files were stored in Ireland.

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