Amazon’s mounting First Amendment battle has reached an anticlimactic end.
The company agreed to hand over user data of an Amazon Echo speaker for a murder trial in Arkansas, after it spent months pushing back against a warrant for the information. Amazon changed its position after the user, defendant James Andrew Bates, consented to the disclosure, according to a court filing that was made public Monday.
Before Bates consented, Amazon just last month offered a strong defense against releasing the user information, with the company saying Bates’ audio recordings with the Echo were protected under the First Amendment.
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Amazon’s disclosure of the recordings by the device sidesteps a potentially significant legal battle pitting users’ privacy against law enforcement’s needs to investigate major crimes. The case offered an early hint at the possible legal complications posed by emerging smart home and internet of things products, which can track users’ activities and movements. However, like a similar battle between Apple and the FBI over unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone, this case too ended without setting any legal precedent.
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Amazon only partially fulfilled the warrant’s requests, saying the First Amendment protects users’ queries to the Echo and Alexa, the voice assistant running the device. Additionally, Alexa’s responses are also protected, the company had said.
Link to the rest at CNet and thanks to Patricia for the tip.