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Alexa: Quash Subpoena, Please

Tuesday, February 28, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mary Mack
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Amazon moved to quash the subpoena in the hot tub murder case covered here last year.  The grounds are novel:  not only does Amazon assert a first amendment, freedom of speech right for the consumer/human speaker, but also for the search engine speaking through the Alexa voice interface.  

Personal utterances in one’s home are protected speech, asserts Amazon, citing case after case where purchase history and book purchases were deemed protective.  In addition, they cite Zhang v. Baidu.com Inc., 10 F. Supp. 3d 433, 435 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) regarding protection of ranked search results being deemed “constitutionally protected opinion.”

With a heightened standard of review due to the sensitivity of the first amendment issues, Amazon is hoping the State will not make their case and their commercial concern for privacy will not be impacted.  Should the court not quash the subpoena, Amazon requests an in camera review.

According to Amazon, the recordings and transcripts of requests are not stored on the local device. Rather they and the responses of the search engine are stored on Amazon servers, servers that are not physically located in Arkansas.  

Read the Amazon filing here

Update, 3/7/2017, the defendant agreed to release the data, per Kathleen Zellner in a @ZellnerLaw tweet, "Amazon Echo Case: We agreed to release recordings-my client James Bates is innocent."

 

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