Alexa may be the key to solving an already somewhat bizarre Florida case where a woman was killed by a spear with a footlong blade to the chest. Police have secured a search warrant for recordings from an Amazon Echo and Echo Dot in the home, which they believe may have witnessed the possible murder, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The incident in question happened back in July: Sylvia Galva Crespo, 32, died in her Hallandale Beach, Florida, home after a mysterious accident left her stabbed through the chest with a spear inexplicably already in the apartment. At least, that’s the explanation her husband, Adam Crespo, 43, gave police before he was charged with second-degree murder.
Police now believe Amazon Echo devices in the home may have been triggered by their “wake word” at the time of the incident, thus making Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa a possible witness, the Guardian reports. It feels like something straight out of Black Mirror.
“It is believed that evidence of crimes, audio recordings capturing the attack on victim Silvia Crespo that occurred in the main bedroom … may be found on the server maintained by or for Amazon,” police explained in a legal document per the Sun Sentinel. A spokesperson for the department told the Sun Sentinel authorities had received the recordings and are currently analyzing them.
Whatever new evidence—if any—police may be able to glean from these recordings remains unclear. While it’s no secret that your smart speakers are listening in on you, Amazon has always contended that Alexa only records short snippets after its “wake word” has been triggered and not entire private conversations. Though researchers have recently found plenty of evidence that hackers use these devices for eavesdropping and phishing schemes, so we do know the capability remains there. Whether or not Amazon uses it with any regularity is another question entirely.
Update: 11/2/2019, 6:38 p.m.:
When asked for comment on the case, an Amazon spokesperson provided the following statement to Gizmodo:
“Amazon does not disclose customer information in response to government demands unless we’re required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding order. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”