Monday 23 September 2019

Adrian Weckler: Online services under pressure to comply

One current US murder prosecution has Amazon under pressure from Arkansas prosecutors to provide information relating to possible recordings taken by a smart home Alexa gadget. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
One current US murder prosecution has Amazon under pressure from Arkansas prosecutors to provide information relating to possible recordings taken by a smart home Alexa gadget. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Get ready for a new phase of Big Brother.

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other online services are all being mined for evidence with increasing regularity.

For gardaí, it's a simple equation. If your Facebook account proves you know someone or something, justice demands that this contributes to solving a crime.

But there are clear issues of privacy at stake, too.

Security forces will always want as much information about our personal lives as possible. So will different entities such as insurance firms.

Social media companies say they are facing more and more pressure to comply. In some instances, big online companies may be caving too easily.

Yahoo is currently under investigation by the Irish data protection office for reportedly having supplied US authorities with user content against European rules.

But what we must all realise is that this won't stop at social media.

Abroad, police forces are starting to compel evidence from health trackers such as Fitbits and smart home devices. One current US murder prosecution has Amazon under pressure from Arkansas prosecutors to provide information relating to possible recordings taken by a smart home Alexa gadget.

Like many emerging smart home devices, the Alexa's microphone is 'always on' to 'listen' out for voice commands you may give it in relation to retrieving online information or controlling lights or heating systems.

Everything from water meters to smart thermostats and Netflix accounts may soon come under pressure from authorities if it is believed they may yield information relevant to investigations.

It looks like we must all face a brave new world where institutional pressures to enact Big Brother will be difficult to resist.

Irish Independent

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