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Technology is creating a new realm of search and seizure laws

How we interact is defined by technology and law surrounding speech. One of the most powerful tools a citizen of the United States has is the right to free speech as protected by the First Amendment. Although we are free to say what we want, our expectation of privacy related to what we say is often the subject of trial in court.

As technology continues to ingrain itself in our lives, our expectations of privacy could change. Companies collect data on our demands of devices for proprietary use, but this creates a legally gray area for courts and law enforcement if they believe a device could provide evidence of a crime.

"The internet of things" and privacy

The "internet of things" and the connectivity of devices in our homes provide thousands of data points in our daily lives. Because we use the devices in our homes, we probably have a high expectation of privacy, but because the data related to its use is stored outside the home, is that privacy diminished?

That question is part of an ongoing court case in which police are attempting to gain access to the data of an Amazon Echo used in a home where an alleged murder took place. An Amazon Echo is an in-home assistant device that is activated by a user's voice with the wake word, "Alexa." Alexa then takes commands and helps users set alarms, make grocery lists and play music.

Although the Echo's data probably won't provide the "smoking gun" moment that solves the murder case, police believe its data can be used to paint a clearer picture of the night's events. Amazon, so far, has refused to turn over the data to law enforcement without a subpoena.

New questions could reach the Supreme Court soon

The case raises intriguing questions related to the First Amendment and the protection of free speech, the Fourth Amendment and the protection against illegal search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment's protection from self-incrimination. Legal experts speculate that questions related to privacy and the internet of things could reach the Supreme Court soon. What does this mean for the average user?

The language of the Constitution is written in black and white, but the extent of its protections are constantly scrutinized by the courts. While companies collect user data, criminal defense attorneys listen to the concerns of men and women facing criminal charges. Even as the right to privacy is called into question, a right to Constitutional due process is still guaranteed.

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The Law Offices of Thomas Marola
2230 S. 108th Street
West Allis, WI 53227

Phone: 414-395-5654
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