Wired Finds Law Enforcement Requests for Smart Home Data Are Up 72% since 2016

Amazon have complied with almost two thirds of almost 3000 requests in 2020 alone

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Law enforcement requests for smart speaker data are on the rise, Wired reports. Since the first search warrant for smart home data in 2016, more and more police departments have been using this collected data as evidence for alleged crimes in court.

According to Wired, Amazon has had over 3000 police requests for Alexa users’ data in the first half of 2020 and has compiled with almost 2000. That’s a 72 per cent increase in requests from the same period in 2016. It’s also a 24 per cent increase in the last year alone, which is probably due to lockdown and the fact that most people are spending the majority of their time at home. Google’s Nest unit apparently reported an increase in such requests in 2018.

The Wired article states that these types of requests have become routine for law enforcement over the latter part of the last decade, and are especially helpful in cases where a defendant’s alibi is “I was at home”.

It’s unlikely that police would go straight to smart home technology data, but more often these requests are made as part of a “phased approach to digital forensics,” whereby detectives follow a digital trail. Still, these requests have become as frequent as subpoenas are search warrants for someone’s smartphone data. After all, smart speaker data can be crucial, especially because they use profile’s to distinguish one individual’s voice from another.

An Amazon spokesperson told Wired the company “rejects overbroad and inappropriate demands” from law enforcement and referred Wired to its policy on government requests, as did Google. Most companies prioritize requests, too, with things like homeland security taking precedence over divorce cases and civil cases. 

It was recently discovered a glitch could have allowed hackers to access Amazon Echo users’ sensitive data such as their home address and banking details, although it appeared the issue wasn’t maliciously exploited before it was fixed. 

As our homes become smarter, more and more of what we do and say is being recorded, held, and sometimes shared. It’s easy to say, well, if you’re not doing anything illegal, who cares? But there’s definitely a Big Brother element to the way we have started to consume technology and, in the wrong hands, our data could be used and exploited beyond our wildest nightmares. This is exactly why I’m scared of the possibility that we’ll all become cyborgs before the decade’s up.