Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree murder charge against an Arkansas man in a high-profile case that involved evidence collected by an Amazon Echo.
James Andrew Bates of Bentonville, Arkansas was charged with killing Victor Collins in November 2015, and Bates was arrested in February 2016. As noted by 40/29 News of Arkansas, “The case received international attention after prosecutors obtained audio recordings from Bates’ Amazon Echo. Amazon turned over evidence from the Echo earlier this year.”
Echo As Evidence
The case was dismissed in a hearing on Wednesday. Prosecutor Nathan Smith told 40/29 “the evidence can support more than one reasonable explanation.”
The night of Collins’ death, Bates said he found Collins’ body floating in the hot tub. When police arrived, they found the body “cut and bruised, and found blood inside the hot tub water. The police report says a medical examiner looked at Collins’ body, and said he was likely in a fight and he died from strangulation and drowning.”
An Amazon Echo was taken from Bates’ kitchen during the investigation, and a judge subsequently issued a warrant for recordings taken by the device during the time of the alleged crime.
The possibility of gaining evidence from the Echo raised a number of questions — and red flags — at the time. According to the Associated Press, “Amazon fought a subpoena, citing customers’ privacy rights, but relented after Bates said he didn’t mind if the technology giant shared the information.”
Though Bates was not convicted for the crime, the case still brings up larger issues on the rights to your personal data — audio and otherwise — as well as what companies can do with that data, and what the government is allowed to access.
Check out our article Security Watch: Amazon Echo Vs. Google Home for a deeper dive into what Amazon and Google may do with those recordings.