Is Smart Technology Next?


Back in 2007, when social media first took off, monitoring social content started to come into play. As it progressed, so did monitoring techniques and uses. Retail brands find value in social data, as do HR departments, and even law enforcement. Recently social media monitoring has made the news, with the ACLU speaking out against monitoring used by law enforcement to track and identify potential threats. The ACLU maintains that this is not used solely for the purpose of tracking and identifying threats, but instead to profile certain groups of individuals. If you read my prior post on why I think the ACLU is wrong, you’ll know I strongly disagree with their opinions.

When I saw the news about smart technology recordings potentially being used as evidence, I wondered how the ACLU (and the general public) feel about this if there are such grave concerns about monitoring public social content. If you haven’t heard, police in Bentonville, Arkansas are asking Amazon to release recorded data from a murder suspect’s Echo – they served Amazon with a warrant to turn this over. At the time of this writing, Amazon has turned over the suspect’s account detail, including purchase history, but has refused to turn over recorded data.

It’s an interesting turn of events, and one that I believe will spark new laws and regulations, much like the controversy of unlocking an iPhone found earlier this year related to a terror incident.

So, will smart technology serve as a stream of potential evidence? It’s unclear exactly what is recorded with such devices, but in the case of Amazon’s Echo, it’s likely some content is recorded – after all, it has to “listen” for the command to start actively listening.

It doesn’t just stop with these speaker devices either – in the story of the murder suspect, police have also looked at his “smart” water meter – with that data, they were able to determine that there were 140 gallons of water used between 1am and 3am on the night of the murder. Police may presume that water was used to clean up evidence, and this data seems as though it was easily obtained.

This is an entirely new ballgame and very different from social media monitoring. If these smart devices have random recordings of private conversations, it opens up a whole new can of worms. Do the one and two party consent laws apply to smart devices? Can private conversations in one’s home be used as evidence? Do the manufacturers of these smart products have an obligation to turn over such data under a warrant?

Just like social media content, this is going to be a tricky, murky area that will take quite a bit of time to iron out. I anticipate it will be more difficult to set standards than it was with social media – after all, social media standards and laws surrounding its use are still being ironed out over a decade later.

How do you feel about this? Is this too much, or is it a necessary, useful tool to help law enforcement and even the government solve cases and mitigate potential threats to the general public? We’d love to hear your thoughts – feel free to share your thoughts below.