Privacy Advocates Warn of Potential Surveillance Through Listening Devices Like Amazon Echo, Google Home

Privacy experts are keeping a close watch on the case of a Bentonville, Arkansas, man who was charged with murder after prosecutors obtained a warrant to receive data from his Amazon Echo, a voice-activated device that is always listening and often recording. James Andrew Bates says he’s innocent of the murder of Victor Collins, who was found strangled in Bates’s hot tub. Prosecutors hope to search audio recordings on Bates’s Amazon Echo for clues. So far, lawyers for Amazon have refused to comply with the warrant, but the case has drawn national attention and alarmed civil liberties groups. We speak with Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

TRANSCRIPT

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: If you received one of those home digital assistants, like Amazon Echo or Google Home, over the holidays, you might want to listen closely. Privacy experts are keeping a close watch on the case of a Bentonville, Arkansas, man who was charged with murder after prosecutors obtained a warrant to receive data from his Amazon Echo, a voice-activated device that’s always listening and often recording. James Andrew Bates says he’s innocent of the murder of Victor Collins, who was found strangled in Bates’s hot tub. Prosecutors hope to search audio recordings on Bates’s Amazon Echo for clues.

AMY GOODMAN: So far lawyers for Amazon have refused to comply with the warrant, and experts say it’s unlikely the device was recording at the time of the murder. But the case has drawn national attention and alarmed civil liberties groups. Bates’ lawyer, Kimberly Weber, told USA Today, quote, “I have a problem [that] a Christmas gift that is supposed to better your life can be used against you. It’s almost like a police state,” she said.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

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