When news broke that law enforcement officials in Arkansas had demanded that Amazon turn over Alexa user data that it claimed was associated with an alleged murder, you might have rolled your eyes. After all, how much, if anything, could the quirky little assistant know about the events that unfolded? A new piece of interactive art ventures a guess, while providing an extremely interesting and somewhat disturbing look at how smart home gadgets could be used (or exploited) to learn some of our most private actions.
The page, called simply “Monitor,” is essentially a fake computer desktop with a date and time displayed in the center. As time passes (faster than normal, to save you the boredom of many minutes with nothing to see), notifications begin to pop up from various smart home apps and services, including Nest, Verizon, and even a connected spa app.
As the notifications continue to pile in, the story of what might have happened that fateful night in Arkansas begins to take shape. Calls are exchanged, food is ordered, drinks are mixed, and motion detectors alert of arriving guests and the movement of people in the house. It ends just like the murder scene which made headlines: with a hot tub, dead body, and call to police.
The project doesn’t necessarily implicate anyone, but depending on how you read into the notifications and what assumptions you’re willing to make, it can also be seen incriminating. It’s a very interesting showcase of how smart home gadgets could be used as evidence in the future, for better or worse.