Alexa being used as a ‘witness’ to a murder case in Florida

Florida police are seeking the assistance of Amazon’s Alexa in what has been described as a bizarre murder case. Silvia Galva, 32, was impaled by a spear-tipped bed post in her home, and police have obtained audio from two Amazon Echo devices in an attempt to establish what occurred.
Amazon Echo speaker.
Amazon Echo recordings are increasingly useful for law enforcement. Photo: Fabian Hurnaus via Pexels.

Not guilty plea

Adam Crespo, 43, has pleaded not guilty to engaging in second-degree murder at the Hallandale Beach home that he shared with Galva. Crespo instead asserts that her death occurred due to a tragic accident.

With no eyewitnesses, police believe that the smart speaker system may have recorded the dispute, and could corroborate or otherwise the story of Crespo.

The police report on the incident states that Crespo was attempting to remove Galvo from the bed that they shared during an argument in July. At this time, he heard a snap, and found that the blade of the bed had penetrated the victim’s chest.

Crespo then claims that he “pulled the blade out of the victim’s chest ‘hoping it was not too bad.’” And police have turned to the Amazon devices in order to uncover further evidence.

Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot.
Both the Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot have been big sellers for Amazon. Photo: BestAI Assistant via Flickr.

Multiple recordings

The authorities stated that Amazon has provided multiple recordings, but the police have declined to disclose their contents. Lawyers representing Crespo stated that the death was completely unintentional, and that the defendant is devastated about the Uutimely passing of “the woman he loved”.

While it is not known whether the Alexa device will exonerate Crespo, a police warrant indicates that “audio recordings capturing the attack on victim Silvia Crespo… may be found on the server[s] maintained by or for Amazon.com”. This is indeed becoming a regular port of call for law enforcement authorities, with Amazon devices having been seized in previous domestic incidents.

Crespo’s lawyer, Christopher O’Toole, told the BBC that he welcomed the potential intervention of the Amazon devices. “Ordinarily, I’d be jumping up and down objecting, but we believe the recordings could help us. If the truth comes out, it could help us,” O’Toole commented.

Amazon Echo in a home.
Amazon devices already account for 70% of the smart speaker market in the US. Photo: BestAI Assistant via Flickr.

Privacy debate

While the incident can be considered an intriguing legal case, it will once again ignite the debate on privacy issues relating to smart speakers. Amazon, Apple, and Google all employ staff who listen into customer voice recordings, and privacy campaigners have attempted to highlight this issue, and warn people of the potential consequences.

However, security researchers have also found that speakers do not continuously send entire conversations back to remote servers, even though the likes of Amazon do store customer data derived from smart speakers.

Although other major manufacturers have released smart speakers, Amazon’s Alexa has helped its Echo product dominate the market, with figures indicating that it is responsible for a 70% share in the United States.

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