Alexa: witness for the prosecution

Saturday 09 March, 2019

Amazon Alexa… with a knife… in the kitchen.
 

As an aside to our developing series of reports on smart speakers comes a story from America where Alexa has been subpoenaed to give evidence in a murder trial.
 
An Amazon Echo and the data and audio its artificial intelligence engine holds is at the centre of a double murder trial in New Hampshire.
 
Timothy Verrill is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini at a Farmington home in 2017. He has pleaded not guilty and faces trial later this year.
 
Prosecutors believe the Amazon Echo smart speaker that was located in the kitchen of the farmhouse may be a valuable ‘witness’ in the trial. They think the Amazon Echo may have captured recordings of the attack and removal of the body.
 
In November last year, a judge ordered partial records of that device be released.
 
An Amazon spokesperson said the company would not release customer information “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.” The legal document has been served (see below).

Last year Amazon dropped its objection to an Echo search warrant in a death investigation after a suspect, who owned the speaker, agreed to release the information.

 

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