Lawyer Warns: Alexa is ‘Betraying You’

Smart Devices Put 1st Amendment Rights at Risk, Lawyer Says

Photo of Robert Stahl

Robert G. Stahl
Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers

As we perused the newswire services Monday, one release, from a New Jersey criminal defense law firm, caught our eye. Titled, “Are Your Smart Devices Betraying You?” the release was written more like a poison warning label than a news release. Your smart device, Westfield, NJ-based Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers said, are “always on and potentially recording or transmitting.”

You should be concerned Stahl says, as your First Amendment rights are at risk…

Of course anyone paying attention to the world of smart IoT devices, including voice control systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, is likely aware of the fact that privacy concerns have been raised around the issue of the data these devices collect…and where that data ends up. But consumers, many advocates say, are blissfully unaware of the potential ramifications of an always listening and recording device storing whatever its microphones pick up in the cloud.

The topic is becoming a bigger priority though, as homes get stuffed with all forms of smart devices that record. “Baby monitors, smart kitchen devices like refrigerators, and home devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are always on and potentially recording or transmitting,” the Stahl law firm notes.


Yes, they’re fun and helpful…but are you aware of the dangers? Stahl lawyers want you to be infostahl lawyers logormed.

“You can ask Alexa to shop for you, answer questions, make dinner reservations, and all the while you’re being recorded and streamed into Alexa’s memory, stored in the cloud,” Stahl’s release warns. “These devices have the potential to record background sounds and voices even when they are in sleep mode and not being asked to perform a task. With these types of smart devices, we may have unwittingly allowed unfettered access to every aspect of our lives.”

Murder Case Search Warrants Served…on Amazon

The matter has already become an issue, with law enforcement recently seeking to obtain copies of recordings made by Alexa. The release specifically told the story of a murder case in Bentonville Arkansas where the police served a search warrant on Amazon, demanding all recordings from the Echo in the home where the murder took place.

All of a sudden, that fun little device has become a government spy…IF Amazon turns the data over to the police. Amazon fought the warrant on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.

“The company said its device contains every aspect of the individual’s life and therefore law enforcement should not be allowed to have access to it.” Before the court issued its ruling, the homeowner gave consent for Amazon to turn over the data.

A Real Life Example That Your Rights are in Jeopardy

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

But the incident was a real life example of how your rights could be in jeopardy if you own an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. Stahl says, we “believe that government access to personal recordings from Amazon Echo of Google Home devices is tantamount to ‘planting a bug'” in your home.

As Stahl goes on to explain, there is a long established, very high legal bar the government must clear to place a recording device in your home. This includes having to convince a Federal judge that such a move is necessary.

An ‘End-Run’ Around Law Enforcement Requirements

It is rightfully difficult for the government to obtain permission to place a recording device (a “bug”) in any citizen’s home. However, through search warrants like the one issued to Amazon in this case, authorities may be trying to pull an “end run” and obtain recorded data from in your home, without such permission. And in so doing, violating your First Amendment rights, according to Stahl.

If you find yourself in such a predicament, contact Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers. Stahl attorneys “fight for people who are targeted by the U.S. government in an investigation, arrest or indictment.” Not only that, but Stahl attorneys “vigorously defend clients’ First and Fourth Amendment rights.”

Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers can be reached at… or by phone at 908.301.9001.

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.


Lawyer Warns: Alexa is ‘Betraying You’ — 3 Comments

  1. This is about as scary as it gets. It is bad enough anyone can hack into our private networks but to record us while going about our daily business is going over the top. It is the price way pay for toys.

  2. Yes, and this is not just an issue for Amazon and its policy it is also the fact that it can be hacked to do damage. Security and privacy are the issue for us during the expansion of the IOT and automation. If we cannot find cooperation and standards then we may face roadblocks on the way. Keep in mind that the massive denial of service attack on the top domain name firm was done from over 4 million web connected cameras that had no security. We will see more of this before we solve the dilemma. Meanwhile there are myriad groups and standards being set forth during the typical fight for share and technologic domination, but this does not really yet address the issue. Each firm needs to be sure to do their best to secure their products and their customers, but the industry needs to get serious about this or we will kill a golden opportunity. Considering how long we have all worked on home automation, connectivity and the rest it would be tough to see now that we have gotten momentum. This lawyer is right, so what are we going to do about it?

    • As a security professional and instructor, consumers need to be made aware of these dangers. Then they need to start lobbying their legislators for rules regarding privacy. It’s going to be a very long, uphill battle due to the fact that even the FCC has given ISPs the right to spy on us. But if consumers continue to just keep buying these unprotected devices with no guarantee of privacy, the companies are going to keep collecting the data and using it. While their primary objective is for marketing, they too, do not realize the privacy risks inherent in their devices. But we can do something if we start getting some rules in place for what companies can and cannot do in terms of collecting data that invade our privacy. But we need to make a lot of noise about it. And unfortunately, you can’t do that by sitting on your sofa and asking Alexa to write or call your congressman while you drink that beer and watch the game.

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