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Meet the Star Witness: Your Smart Speaker

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Meet the Star Witness: Your Smart Speaker

Requests are rising from law enforcement for information on devices, which can include internet queries, food orders and overheard conversations.


5 min read
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Smart homes and wearable digital devices increasingly provide evidence for criminal investigations.

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Your digital assistant, smart home, phone or watch might be listening in while you commit a crime. As Sidney Fussell reports in Wired, police and prosecutors today are making use of smart home speakers and other digital devices in gathering evidence against criminal suspects. Amazon and Google now receive an increasing number of police requests for such data, and those requests will only multiply in the future. Fussell provides an inside look at the strange new world of constant digital surveillance and its role in crime-fighting. And, as for lawbreakers, if you think mum’s the word, think again.


Police increasingly use data from smart digital devices as part of their investigations.

In a murder case in Florida in 2019, the defense attorney used recordings from smart home speakers to help exonerate his accused client. The only unusual aspect of this case was that the smart speaker data served to exonerate rather than to incriminate a suspect.

Law enforcement typically seeks data from smart home devices for evidence that will incriminate someone. In 2016, Amazon attempted to block the first request for criminal evidence data, but it ultimately relented. Since then, law enforcement has utilized data from various digital devices in many criminal cases. In only the first six months...

About the Author

Sidney Fussell, a senior staff writer at WIRED, covers surveillance, technology, and Silicon Valley’s social and political impact.

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