'Alexa, nick him!' -- Amazon Echo joins the fight against crime

British policeman

We're used to digital assistants controlling more and more aspects of our daily lives, but a UK police force is looking at how Amazon Echo could help in fighting crime.

Police in Lancashire, north west England, are looking at how Alexa could relay information about missing persons or updates on local crime to citizens. It could also be used in the reporting of minor offenses, freeing up police call centers to deal with more serious issues.

Rob Flanagan, Lancashire Constabulary's innovation lead, told the College of Policing conference, "If we can reduce demand into our call centers via the use of voice recognition or voice enabled technology and actually give the community the information they need without them needing to ring in to police then that's massive."

While using Echo to push alerts to citizens is an attractive idea, the possibility of it being used in crime reporting does raise privacy issues. Everything Alexa hears is recorded on Amazon's servers and there is already a precedent in the US for this information to be subpoenaed by courts.

"Police want to improve communication with the public, but is this really the most appropriate mechanism?" Millie Graham Wood, legal officer at the charity Privacy International tells the Daily Mirror. "If you are asking people to report crime via Amazon and give personal details, it would raise a whole raft of problems."

Would you trust Alexa as a crime fighting tool, or do there need to be greater safeguards? Let us know what you think.

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