hot tub murder in Arkansas back in 2015. However, in a critical distinction from this case, the murder suspect — who owned the Echo speaker — gave his permission for Amazon to give the police the recordings. But while police had once described that case as a sure deal, even with additional help from a smart water meter, the case did not go to trial and the suspect has since been released.
While it is clear that virtual assistants such as Alexa are always listening, it is not really clear if they are recording what they hear. There is the celebrated case where Alexa recorded a conversation between a man and wife — then sent the recorded conversation to the husband’s colleague. In this case, Amazon said that the Echo speaker woke up due to a word in the background conversation that sounded like Alexa and misheard a couple critical details. More recently, there has been speculation that an Apple watch worn by Jamal Khashoggi broadcast the details of his murder.
The jury is still out: Did Alexa overhear a murder? Does she remember what went on? Can she be compelled to testify? At the moment, we just don’t know. Fortunately, there are only a few noteworthy murder cases with Alexa. That said, thanks to the increasing popularity of Alexa and other personal assistants, we can also expect them to show up more frequently at the witness stand in a wide array of criminal and civil court cases. Who knows, in 10 years, it might not even be noteworthy.