Guess Who’s Listening

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Do Devices Like Amazon’s Echo and Alexa Create Personal Liability?

More consumers are buying smart devices that tie in their smart phones and other home technology to the internet.  The most current devices allow you to have direct access to the internet from anywhere in your home.  By saying a key phrase, which Amazon calls a “wake word,” the Echo comes to life and begins listening for commands.  By default, the wake word is Alexa.  You can shop, order food, and manage your other connected devises.  Conversely, all this freedom brings a few new personal liability exposures.

Risk Concerns

  • Anyone can access the device—including children.
  • The device can be turned off, but many people seem to forget to do so.
  • Security depends on how well the end-user deploys firewalls, etc.
  • There are many documented cases of children buying goods and services simply by saying key words.
  • The third-party doctrine.As strong as privacy jurisprudence has been in protecting the home, it has been very weak in another areas.  Under the court’s so-called “third party doctrine,” the Constitution does not require police to get a warrant to access people’s records from their bank, telephone company, internet service provider, Google, Amazon, or any other third party.  From ACLU.com

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