Alexa, can you keep a secret?
In a day and age where Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as Amazon’s Echo, are integrated into every aspect of our lives, how much privacy can one expect and can it come back to bite you?
In a murder case dating back to February of 2015, Arkansas prosecutors are attempting to collect any information that may have been stored or recorded, including any queries that may have been run through the suspect’s (James Bates) Echo device. The police have served Amazon with search warrants to obtain this data. However, Amazon has declined to accommodate the police with their request, citing privacy concerns. Now, this may sound familiar to you. Back in December of 2015, in San Bernardino, FBI agents approached Apple and demanded that they assist the FBI by unlocking the San Bernardino shooters’ iPhones. Just like Amazon has done now, Apple resisted the FBI’s many attempts to force them to comply.
While I do applaud Amazon and Apple for fighting back and trying to keep some facet of our lives private, with everything going the way it has I believe it’s only going to be a matter of time until companies won’t have a choice and will be forced into releasing whatever the government is asking for. We have already seen collections of people’s computers, social media sites, mobile phones, and even automobiles equipped with an EDR (Event Data Recorder). There’s almost nothing that can’t be used against ourselves nowadays. I also speculate that the general public is unaware that there are so many sources that may record what we do and when we do it.
In the story about murder suspect, James Bates, the prosecutor even used information collected from another smart device, the water heater, against Mr. Bates. It’s scary to think that even something as trivial as a smart water heater can be used against you. What if the amount of water used wasn’t out of the norm for that particular situation or he had used the water for something else? How easily can data collected from these types of devices be taken out of context?
Even with all this being said, I don’t think it will deter me from future purchases of IoT devices. The benefits and the ability to allow me to enjoy my days off in utter laziness, like turning off my lights with just the sound of my voice, outweigh the risk of them being used against me. I also don’t plan to commit any type of crimes and if I were to, I’d be smart enough not to ask any of my devices, especially Alexa. Be careful what you say around her, you never who’s listening.