Amazon cites First Amendment right to free speech in attempt to have Echo warrant dismissed

Amazon cites First Amendment right to free speech in attempt to have Echo warrant dismissed

Amazon has escalated its bid to have a search warrant for voice recordings held on an Echo device owned by a murder suspect dismissed – by arguing that protections afforded by the First Amendment for free speech extend to users Alexa requests and its responses.

The extraordinary case revolves around suspected murderer James Andrew Bates, who also happened to be an early adopter of technology with an Amazon Echo in his possession amongst other gadgets.

Investigators believe this device could hold the key to proving Bates’ guilt after police discovered the body of his alleged murder victim, Victor Collins, floating in a hot tub back in November 2015.

A subsequent search warrant called for the seizure of all communications and transactions facilitated by Bates’ Echo on the day of the murder and the immediate aftermath in addition to general subscriber and account details.

Amazon’s lawyers are attempting to resist this order however, arguing that police have failed to demonstrate a sufficiently robust case against Bates or show that the information could not be obtained by other means.

The online retailer argued that voice requests are protected under the first amendment because its broad remit includes the ‘right to receive, the right to read and freedom of inquiry’ without government scrutiny. Amazon’s hand is strengthened by a similar case involving Google in which ranked search results were found to be a ‘constitutionally protected opinion’.

Technology companies such as WhatsApphave been keen to stress the privacy of their services following allegations of collusion between businesses and the US Federal Government.

Facebook 'Likes' have also been granted constitutional protection as 'free speech'.

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John Glenday

John Glenday is responsible for compiling The Drum's daily morning bulletin and ensuring that overnight breaking news is covered while you're still brushing your teeth. Can also make a mean cup of tea.

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