Amazon Echo Home Recordings At Center Of Murder Trial As Judge Orders Data Release


By Nicholas West
Activist Post (11/13/18)

A new type of court case has been slowly but steadily emerging within the American legal system: alleged crimes being detected from data supplied by smart devices. The very nature of the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution appears to be at stake.

In December 2016, 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.

As this information becomes more widely used, will we begin seeing false arrests based upon faulty digital readings and/or hacks?

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.

However, a new case offers the reverse: a New Hampshire judge appears ready to demand that Amazon turn over recordings from the home where two women were allegedly stabbed to death by Timothy Verrill. Verrill has pleaded not guilty, and this appears to be the first case in the state of New Hampshire where a judge is willing to summon data from a smart device – an Amazon Echo speaker – as evidence that could be central to a trial. The implications of this have also been stated by legal experts:

“I think most people probably don’t even realize that Alexa is taking account of what’s going on in your house, in addition to responding to your demands and commands,” said Albert Scherr, a professor at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

For its part, Amazon has stated that “the company won’t release any information until a valid legal demand has been properly served.” It’s likely that will happen based on what other smart tech companies have done, both large and small.

Fit Bit bite?

I have previously written about several other cases where alleged crimes have been reported by home gadgets like smart metersFitbits and more. Google Nest was recently revealed to have become the first company in the world to have cooperated with police to release footage from its live camera feeds. …

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  • The Rise Of Fascism In A Brave New Digital World — We are watching Huxley’s dystopian vision of a Brave New World controlled by state-sanctioned addiction unfold right before our eyes. And true to Huxley’s prescience, we rather enjoy it. The only surprise is that the operative pharmacological agents he warned against aren’t delivered in pill or liquid or other physical form, and we don’t call them soma or heroin or crystal meth or crack.  They’re delivered in bits and bytes instead, and we call them media.  Consider… Link to Story


Face Recognition & Other Intrusive Biometric ID For Travel Goes Global With New CBP Tourism ‘Partnership’


By Nicholas West
Activist Post (11/5/18)

Biometric identification has quietly rolled out at several U.S. airports and various locations around the world. In some cases, it has been sprung upon the general traveling public without warning, leaving some to question how optional this will be as travelers become acclimatized to the new boarding process.

According to a new announcement from the World Travel & Tourism Council, it appears that the roll out is set to accelerate and begin a much louder PR push to prepare the public for a new world of integrated biometrics for every phase of travel. A new public-private partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection seems to widen the scope of the U.S. government mandate that is 15 years in the making to require biometric ID.

Private companies already have been enlisted by CBP to integrate their systems into government databases for ID verification. As stated by Jim Peters, chief technology officer for SITA, one of the information technology companies working with airlines, they are looking for a “quick and easy roll out across U.S. airports.” He added that the goal is a system as “quick as a Google search for most passengers.”

Mission creep

Despite many privacy groups warning about the type of incremental “mission creep” we have seen across the spectrum of technological tracking and surveillance, the future of global air travel is clearly poised to become even more invasive. This latest press release is the clearest admission to date about what travelers can expect “using biometric technology throughout the entire journey.” The mission creep is real: the use of biometrics will not only be for boarding, but as noted at the end will include everything from booking to car rental to hotel check-in. My emphasis added throughout:

U.S. CBP and WTTC join forces to increase security and positively transform the traveller experience

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the leaders of the global Travel & Tourism private sector, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have begun working together through a public-private partnership to strengthen U.S. borders, increase security and improve the traveller experience through the entire journey by making travel more efficient and seamless for passengers with the use of technology.

Both WTTC and CBP are committed to the application of facial biometrics in the travel journey as a means of maximising security while ensuring legitimate tourists can visit the country to create jobs and drive economic growth.

Through its Seamless Traveller Journey initiative, WTTC is working to bring the entire sector together – via a harmonised approach, interoperability, and some common standards – to use facial biometric technology in Travel & Tourism, which can be applied on a country-by-country basis throughout the travel journey.

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(Commoner Call cartoon and photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to )


“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.” 

– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932).