Washington Law Review

Comment

Alexa, What Should We Do About Privacy? Protecting Privacy for Users of Voice-Activated Devices

March 27, 2018 | 93 Wash. L. Rev. 421

Abstract: Alexa, Amazon’s digital voice assistant, and devices like it, are increasingly common. With this trend comes growing problems, as illustrated by a murder investigation in Bentonville, Arkansas. Police wanted Amazon to turn over data associated with the suspect’s Echo device, hoping it had overheard something on the night of the murder. The case sparked wide-spread interest in the privacy implications of in-home devices that record audio of users. But the biggest threat to user privacy is not that Alexa may overhear a crime—it is that law enforcement will use such devices in new ways that users are not prepared for during investigations. Thus, a solution is needed for users to have the confidence and certainty that bringing these devices into their homes will not erode their privacy. This Comment proposes that companies should ensure privacy protections are engineered into their devices, and that legislatures should adopt forward-looking statutes to ensure protections for users.

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