Alexa? Are you Recording Me? Could Smart Devices Compromise your Privacy?

ARKANSAS – Home sweet home has a different meaning in 2017.

It’s not quite Jetson-like living, but technology has definitely made our lives easier, or in some cases, more complicated.

From Apple TV  to your Nest Thermostat, smart devices help simplify day to day activities, but they’re also capturing our private information.

We looked into how your tablet, mobile phone and other smart devices are giving away your secrets.

In November of 2015  police were called to James Bates’ home. That’s where they found 47-year-old, Victor Collins dead.

Bentonville police subpoenaed Amazon… asking the company to give up stored information from Bates’ Amazon Echo.

We looked into what information smart devices like an Echo actually store.”
 
31-year-old, James Bates is at the center of a murder investigation.

Pastor Allen Bates, James Bates’ Father said, “I have a strong feeling about personal privacy,but I have a much stronger feeling about my son’s innocence.”

It’s been more than year since 47-year-old, Victor Collins was found dead in Bates’ hot tub.

Police hope a smart device holds the answers they’ve been searching for.

Privacy Expert Bob Sullivan said, “You invite a gadget into your home, that can record you, and then transmit something you say into your home off to a third party.There are two problems with that, one is what they call the blank check problem. It might seem very innocent to tell Alexa today that you care about the weather but you never know where that data’s going to end up.”

It might seem tempting to add more smart devices into your home, making your way of life a little easier. However,  experts say once you welcome the new technology into your life, you’re putting your private information at risk.

Dale Thompson, a Computer Networking Professor at the University of Arkansas said, “A lot of these devices, people will find security holes in them and so believe it or not you can update these things much like updating your phone.”

Because smart technology is relatively new, the conversation of privacy is just getting started.

Sullivan said not only could these devices put your information out there for a murder trial,  it could also compromise your personal safety.

“Somebody could say, ‘Hey… Bob asks for the weather every day at 5:45 a.m. That means we know when Bob leaves his house. Maybe that means this is a good time to sell Bob things. Maybe that means this is a good time to rob Bob’s house,” Sullivan said.

Amazon’s Echo device, or it’s smaller version, The Echo Dot, keeps track of all your conversations. If you think they’re private, think again.

Sullivan said, “Anyone with access to your Amazon account could see that log. So, if someone hacks your Amazon account, they can see all the requests you’ve made of Alexa. Perhaps, ever. And once again, what could you piece together about somebody’s life?”

What if Alexa is recording information that isn’t even coming from you?Someone could essentially call your home phone and order your smart device to do whatever you want, like order a pizza.

Sullivan said,  “Alexa wakes up randomly. You might be having a conversation in your living room with family and Alexa hears what she thinks is a wake word from the TV in the background. And suddenly she says, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.’ And everything you’re saying after that gets recorded and sent to Amazon.”

Experts say before you buy, make sure you understand the layer of privacy that’s getting pulled back with this advanced technology.

Dale Thompson, Computer Networking Professor, U of A – “Things that you say, if it was captured by these devices, like the Echo and is at least catching parts of your conversations or the background noise. I imagine that people could maybe use that against you in the future. “

Bentonville Police also requested information from his home’s smart water meter  because Bates is accused of using a garden hose to wash blood off his hot tub and patio.

He’s currently out on bail awaiting trial.
As for the Echo, everything it records is put into a log on your Alexa app.

You can go into that app and delete recordings.