How has artificial intelligence changed the way you work and live over the years? I know that our smartphones have become smarter through the likes of Siri on Apple’s iOS and Cortana on the Windows platform, while the presence of Internet connectivity at just about everywhere ensures that our lives enter a net of connectedness that greatly improves our lifestyle. For instance, we start to receive reminders on our handsets on when we should leave for a particular appointment based on existing traffic conditions in order to arrive at the destination in time, or alerts of the latest sports scores as well as flight updates. The Amazon Echo has also been a boon to many, and now it might actually be called upon by the police to assist in a murder case.
The men in blue over in Bentonville, Arkansas, have recently sent a warrant to Amazon. In that particular warrant, Amazon was asked to search for the relevant data connected to an Amazon Echo device in order to uncover more clues that could result in the successful prosecution of a suspected murderer in one of the cases. The suspected murderer in the case is a certain James Andrew Bates, who was charged with first-degree murder in November 2015. Other facts surrounding the case include the murder victim Victor Collins being found strangled and drowned in Mr. Bates’ hot tub.
According to Mr. Bates, he did invite Collins as well as another two friends over to his place, namely Owen McDonald and Sean Henry. The point of the invitation was to enjoy a football game, and Mr. Bates claimed that he decided to call it a night and head off to sleep at approximately 1 in the morning. At point of his departure to sleep, the victim and McDonald were said to be having some drinks in his hot tub.
Mr. Bates’ affidavit pointed out that by the time he woke up a few hours later, he stumbled upon Collins in the hot tub -- face down, and very much drowned. McDonald has a different story, however, citing that he left Bates and Collins at approximately 12:30 a.m., and this particular story was confirmed by McDonald’s wife. Phone records showed that Bates did text a woman the whole evening, while calling his father and other friends, McDonald included, as well as the Flying Fish restaurant. None of those phone calls were attended to, as Bates claimed that his handset was left unlocked and in his back pocket, attributing those phone calls to butt dials.
With Bates being well connected in terms of devices back home, ranging from a Nest thermostat to a Honeywell alarm system and an Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo could very well hold the key to solving this potential murder case. After all, the Echo might have controlled the streaming music, which was transmitted sans wires the whole night via the Alexa assistant. It remains to be seen how the data will come in handy for the case, and how much amount of data can be extracted from the device. Alexa is constantly on the alert, waiting to pick up the “wake word” before commands arrive.
Amazon has played hard ball so far, not wanting to hand over the requested information and also withholding customer information unless there is “a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”