When your appliances work as police informants

Suppose police suspect a man of organizing a political protest that turned violent, muses the ACLU’s Nathan Wessler, who argued the Carpenter case (on digital privacy) for the ACLU before the Supreme Court. The suspect’s smart meter and thermostat confirm that a handful of people showed up at his home and stayed there the two nights before the demonstration; the suspect’s smart refrigerator ordered a bunch of soda and snack food on those days, which was all consumed; after someone asked Alexa to play some music in his living room, a voice in the background said, “Tomorrow, we’re going to really show them”; and that night, the suspect’s smart mattress recorded him sleeping fitfully and his heart beating faster than normal. The police arrest the man on conspiracy and other charges. He eventually proves he’s innocent – some old friends visited from out of town, and planned a day of sightseeing—but not before a legal nightmare turns his life upside down.

 "There’s not a person among us who doesn’t have private aspects of their life that could create difficulty for them if they were exposed,” Wessler says. “And misinterpreted.”

David Henry writing in 1843