A new type of court case is slowly but steadily emerging within the American legal system: alleged crimes being detected from data supplied by smart devices.
Several cases over the last few years have focused on data transmitted within the modern smart home, while a couple of others add an extra dimension of police completely reconstructing a crime scene based upon data collected from the home as well as the various Internet-connected devices that we wear.
The very nature of the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution appears to be at stake.
In December of last year an Arkansas murder case made headlines not so much for the death itself, but how a suspect was brought into custody. James Bates hosted a party at his Bentonville home on the night of November 21st, 2015. At some point during the event a man drowned in a hot tub on the property. Bates claimed to have found the victim the next morning when he awoke, stating that it was a tragic accident, but Arkansas police obtained smart water meter readings that showed an anomaly between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Based solely on this data – and obtained without a warrant – Bates was arrested and charged with 1st degree murder.
Somewhat ironically, James Bates subsequently requested recordings from his Amazon Echo to defend himself against these charges, which resulted in Amazon waiving their standard privacy conditions.
A second case followed wherein we saw a police narrative emerge that a crime had been prevented by a home’s smart system. A domestic dispute resulted in Eduardo Barros allegedly wielding a firearmagainst his girlfriend and threatening to kill her. However, during the argument he exclaimed, “Did you call the sherrifs?” This activated a voice-controlled sound system in his home and dialed 911. After an hours-long standoff, the suspect was taken into custody and charged. Law enforcement was quick to hail the smart technology as having “saved a life.” But it was the presiding judge who shook privacy advocates by accepting the evidence regardless of how it was obtained, saying that there was indeed probable cause for the arrest without a warrant.