“Alexa, can you keep a secret?” An Analysis of 4th Amendment Protection Regarding Smart Home Devices

By Rebecca Levin

I.     Introduction

On November 5, 2018, Judge Steven M. Houran of Strafford County, New Hampshire ordered Amazon to provide authorities with audio recordings from an Amazon Echo device in the investigation of the stabbing of two women in January 2017.[1]  Judge Houran wrote the Echo device may possess recordings that give insight into the murders given the device’s location in the home where the women were found.[2]  Currently, Amazon is objecting to the legality of this order and has yet to hand over the recordings, stating they will not release the information “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.”[3]  While this dispute is in the early stages; this clash over privacy rights between the government and Amazon is not the first of its kind.[4]

On February 22, 2016, in Benton County, Arkansas, prosecutors charged James Bates with the murder of Victor Collins.[5]  After the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Collins’s death a murder, law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home where they seized an Amazon Echo device under the assumption that through use of this device Amazon possessed audio recordings that could help solve the murder in question.[6]  Prosecutors surmised the Amazon Echo inadvertently recorded audio from the night of November 21, 2015 given the device played music on the night of the alleged murder and could have inadvertently recorded evidence of the murder.[7]  Ultimately, Amazon dropped their objection to releasing the recordings when James Bates voluntarily consented to their release on March 3, 2017.[8]  These cases highlight the question of what level of protection home smart devices receive under one’s right to privacy.  This article will explore how the current laws protect smart home device users under the Fourth Amendment.

Continue reading ““Alexa, can you keep a secret?” An Analysis of 4th Amendment Protection Regarding Smart Home Devices”

ONLINE IMPERSONATION: I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE V. YOU CAN’T MANDATE HOW I USE MY PRIVACY TOOLBOX

By: Evisa Kambellari*

I. Introduction

In the virtual world, one person can present himself in different identities and several persons can present themselves under the same virtual identity.[1]  Online impersonation can occur in two ways: either by stealing one’s personal information to gain access to his online profile or by creating a completely fake profile.[2]  The fake profile might reveal information that belongs to someone else or be totally fictitious.  Such flexibility in assuming one’s identity online is due to the anonymity that people enjoy in the online world.  Inability to elaborate proper identification tools of Internet users is one of the biggest challenges in preventing and prosecuting social media related crimes.[3]  Online social networking has reshaped human interaction in a way that reduces the barriers that would traditionally keep strangers apart.[4]  Identification requirements are minimal and there is no proper mechanism of verifying the truthfulness of the information one presents in creating an online profile or e-mail account.  However, creating a fake online profile is not a criminal act per se.  The component that turns the lawful act into an unlawful act of online impersonation is the imposter’s malicious intent to “defraud,” obtain a “benefit,” or “injure”.[5]

Continue reading “ONLINE IMPERSONATION: I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE V. YOU CAN’T MANDATE HOW I USE MY PRIVACY TOOLBOX”