Detectives Clash with Amazon over Echo Data Access


Detectives at the Bentonville Police Department have clashed with Amazon in a murder investigation.  Police believe that the Echo may have been accidently activated and recorded possible evidence between the victim and murderer.

Victor Collins was murdered in November 2015.  He was found face down in his bath tub and signs of a struggle were evident.  His Amazon Echo was close by.  The chief suspect in the case is James Bates who called the police department initially and reported his ‘friend’, Victor Collins, was dead.

According to court records, blood spots were found around the rim of the tub, and the victim’s eyes and lips were swollen.  During the investigation, it was realised that music had been streamed to the back patio at the suspected time of death, and this could have been via the Amazon Echo.

The Amazon Echo is a voice activated smart assistant.  The device is activated by a user saying the word, ‘Alexa’ or ‘Amazon’.   When a command is issued, the user is recorded on Amazon’s servers where the command is processed.  Sometimes this device can be activated accidently and it is for this reason the police were interested in accessing the data.

Court records show that Amazon were issued with two search warrants but refused to share data that was sent to Amazon’s servers on the night of the murder.

A spokesman for Amazon said, “Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.

“Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”

Despite the refusal from Amazon, the police have said they were able to extract data from the device and Mr Collin’s LG smartphone.  They were unable, however, to extract data from Mr Bates’ Huawei Nexus handset as this was “encrypted at the chipset level.”

Currently, the accused killer, James Bates, has yet to be put on trial.