Recent posts on this blog have explored the issue of privacy in the context of smart phones and criminal investigation. In this increasingly digital world, the issue is bound to become increasingly important as the government continues to search connected or smart devices as part of the work of criminal investigation and prosecution.

An ongoing case in Arkansas involving an Amazon Echo device demonstrates this clearly. Amazon Echo takes voice commands, similar to Apple’s Siri, allowing users to search the Internet, schedule their day, and perform various other tasks. Police in Arkansas have reportedly requested that Amazon give them access to data from an Echo device they believe may hold data that could help them to solve a suspected murder. 

Police already searched the man’s Echo device, which was in the home at the time of the alleged murder, and have asked Amazon to provide additional information from its servers. Amazon has fortunately refused to cooperate, so far, with the investigation until it is required to do so by law. Authorities haven’t said exactly what they are looking for, but Amazon Echo could potentially provide audio evidence of what was happening in the home or provide records of searches conducted on the device.

Though it isn’t yet clear how this case will be resolved, one thing is clear: privacy is going to become and increasingly important issue in criminal investigation. As the Internet of Things casts an increasingly wider net with a variety of consumer products, the kind of scenario involved in this Arkansas case is going to become increasingly common and it will become increasingly necessary for those facing criminal charges to work with experienced legal counsel to protect their constitutional rights in the criminal process.