The electronic informant

http://Have you considered the intelligence of smart devices in the average home or the number of important tasks they perform? Devices like the voice-activated speakers, robotic vacuums and adaptive thermostats that collect and store information have become our maids and butlers that tirelessly perform our daily tasks. They dutifully await our beck and call to turn the lights on or off. They can also turn the radio or television off, on, up or down; or even change stations, channels or record a show we do not want to miss while we are busy elsewhere. We may be on a flight home while our electronic servants obediently handle our desires or needs without complaint. GeniCan scans the barcodes on our discarded products, automatically adds them to our smartphones shopping list and emails us when the trashcan is full. Our man Godfrey is not that efficient is he? Godfrey is not as cheap and he must be fed. Wink-Hub is as inexpensive as his electronic brothers and sisters who never eat; yet he controls our lightbulbs, door locks, thermostats, garage doors and water mains, but also unlike Godfrey they never seek employee benifits. Devices may now collect previously unknown information about their owners behavior, but for what purpose? Google’s Nest learning thermostat can connect to a user’s smartphone to transmit such data. If the owners smartphone moves from the vicinity of the home, Nest recognizes that the user is no longer home and remotely adjusts the heat or air conditioning to save energy. Similar smart devices perform our daily chores just as inexpensively, yet they never steal, complain or seek employee benefits for their services. The multitude of actions routinely performed by smart devices are electronically performed by these who never seek reward from their lawful owners. But, lets be just a little devious and ask who this electronic army of intelligence actually work for?

I. Remote devices are like the Pinkerton eye; they never sleep.

Law enforcement agencies usually maintain a close watch on technological advancements to determine if these improvements could provide them more reliable information to assist in solving, or predicting crimes. How many of you have seen the television commercial where a person is taking a bath when his doorbell rings. He uses his smartphone to view his visitor through the doorbell camera and ascertains what the visitor wants through the internal microphone and speaker system, dismisses him and continues his bath. The person in the bathtub then advises us that this is the new Ring smart home protection system that protects you and your property. Our professional burglar/moderator cleverly stated that we can make our property nearly impervious by installing such equipment because smart devices are always on duty. Smart devices will remotely notify you, the police, fire or other services that may be needed. Similarly, they can email you to restock when commodities run low, or to perform the duties necessary to maintain your property. Finally, our moderator concludes his conversation by sharing that in real life he is a burglar, but it could be bad for his business if he shared Ring’s obvious value to home protection.

II. Allen Pinkerton was allegedly Chicago’s First Police Detective, who later founded an internationally respected detective agency. What other nuggets did past greats law enforcement greats leave to direct future professionals?

Our initial question was, who do our electronic servants owe a duty of loyalty to, or better put, who do they really work for? A video can provide a critical piece of evidence to help law enforcement investigate crime. More than 600, and rapidly growing, law enforcement agencies across the country have formed a professional relationship with Amazon, who now owns Ring. If a law enforcement agency provides Amazon with a case number for the crime they are investigating with a request to download video recorded by Ring’s motion-detecting, Internet-connected cameras located inside and outside of Ring protected homes and the homeowner agrees then the video will be provided. Homeowners are free to decline their permission for such requests. Amazon believes the information they provide police can kept forever and shared with whomever they like. Theoretically, these requests can be piggybacked to allow police surveillance of an entire neighborhood via Ring cameras. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your position, the issue can be placed before courts of lawful jurisdiction to decide if this portion of Allen Pinkerton’s legacy is legally usable in our situation.

III. Into the weeds.

Lets return to the professional burglar in the bathtub and assume that the person who initially rang the doorbell was really a terrorist who asked a female voice that spoke over the intercom if she had a room for rent? The female voice on the intercom belonged to Ms. Lucille Ball. Moreover, one of this country’s largest military aircraft factories was located within five blocks of Ms. Ball’s house. Regardless of whether Ms. Ball rented the room, do you believe law enforcement would ultimately be interested in the video recording of a suspected terrorist, the sound of his voice, his approximate height, weight, build, skin color, hair style etc? Furthermore, how much more accurate would the information provided in a brief recording be viewed when it is supplemented with a copy of the field case report of Ms. Ball’s statement. Personally, I would prefer the video to supplement Ms. Ball’s testimony rather than just her statement by itself.

Lets assume further that the person who rang the doorbell completed a lease application identifying himself as Fred Mertz that night and left it with Lucille. Fred also left information where he could be reached if Ms. Ball agreed to rent him a room. The next morning she had her realtor electronically check Fred’s background and his electronic approval arrived showing Mr. Fred Mertz as financially responsible, no prior criminal history and it also displayed an excellent work history. Ms. Ball called the backwater inn and asked to speak with Mr. Mertz. After agreeing on a time to meet, she went to the Fred’s room where she accepted $2,000.00 in cash as the deposit for her first and last month’s rent. She further notified Fred that he must pay her an additional $1,000.00 towards this month months rent and $1,000 by the 1st of each month for the remaining eleven months that he planned to stay there. As long as he fulfilled the remaining terms, his initial deposit would be returned, if he did not renew before his lease expired. Fred told Lucille that he accepted those terms, but had recently moved from Havana, Cuba, so she could accompany him to the local “cash all checks bank” where he would cash a certified check drawn on the Fidel Castro National Bank in Havana for $25,000.00 and pay her the balance for the years agreement. They completed this transaction on May 1, 2019, around noon and Fred moved in at 3;30pm that afternoon.

Within four days Fred was hired as an aircraft mechanic at the neighborhood factory previously mentioned. While at lunch, Lucille saw Fred in the factory’s cafeteria and asked what he was doing there. Fred advised that he had just gotten a job there that morning, so they had a casual lunch together while discussing their jobs. Lucille was the executive secretary to the president of the company, so she told Fred to let her know if he needed help maintaining his position or qualifying for a promotion. Fred thanked Lucille and informed her how much he enjoyed the smart devices, mentioned in the first paragraph, included in his rent. They both then returned to their separate areas of work

Three months later Fred asked Lucille to recommend him for promotion to chief mechanic at the factory and she told Fred that she would talk to her boss, Mr. Ricky Ricardo, later that afternoon. At 4 pm on November 30, 2019, she met with Mr. Ricardo to recommend Fred for the job of chief mechanic. How long have you known Fred asked Ricky? Lucy calmly replied, I first met him about three months ago she replied. Not very long Mr. Ricardo thought out loud. No, but I had an electronic background investigation conducted on Fred prior to renting him a room in my house. He graduated first in his class from The Che Guevara School of Military Airplane Mechanics, in Havana, Cuba.He then spent four years working for the Raul Castro Military Airline Factory as a mechanic before being promoted to chief mechanic last year. He recently went through a horrible divorce so he moved here for a change of scenery. Ricky, who was also a native of Cuba, was clearly impressed by Fred’s work history. What do you know about his divorce Ricky asked? Just that he married an idiot named Ethel; who Fred said made his life miserable. Did you talk to Ethel, Lucille? No, Lucy replied, I never met her; but I know Fred well enough that I believe him. Ricky thought for a while, then said: Lucy you know I am also from Havana, Cuba, and I heard of an intelligence general who killed Fidel prior seeking asylum somewhere, but I cannot remember where. I must be getting old because this intelligence chief also had a daughter, whose name I cannot remember either, but I do remember that she was extremely beautiful. Well Lucy, I’ve always loved you, so I will promote Fred based on his background and your information. Funny, Ricky mused, the general really loved canned Cuban spaghetti. Later that day, Ricky called Lucy’s office and instructed her to inform Fred that he had just signed the order to promote him to chief mechanic.

On December 1, 2019, Lucy stopped Fred before he left home for work to congratulate and inform him that her boss, Mr. Ricky Ricardo approved his promotion to chief mechanic when they met yesterday afternoon. Fred was ecstatic with the news and gushed over Lucy for making it happen. They agreed to meet at 10pm that night so Fred could buy her dinner at the extremely expensive McDonalds Platinum to celebrate the news. Lucy was on vacation that week, so she agreed to meet Fred at the time and place he specified. Somehow, the name Ricky Ricardo sounded familiar to Fred who needed to focus on his new job prior to getting to work.

At 6:30pm the lights came on and scared Lucy nearly out of her mind. She had forgotten programing the smart device to turn the lights on prior to her entering the house. She showered and began dressing when she heard the doors unlock and the garage door open. Well I must be coming in soon, she laughed. She next heard the CNN international news come on in Fred’s room and wondered why she had not noticed it before, but then her television set remotely started playing her favorite show, the haves and have nots, on the Oprah channel. She busily completed dressing and began entering her car when she received a text notice on her smartphone. She was running late and would have deal with that later. She noticed that the garbage was full; she intended to close the bag and set it outside the door for the garbage truck when she left for dinner. but she had gotten so involved with her dressing preparations that time just slipped by. When she noticed the time and realized that she had to leave immediately to arrive on time. She and Fred returned home after a scrumptious dinner and too many cocktails and shuffled to their individual rooms where they quickly dozed off into deep sleeps.

Friday afternoon Ricky called to inform Lucy that he had to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend an important meeting at the Defense Department. Ricky informed Lucy that she should take some additional vacation time to get as much rest as possible because they would be extremely busy when he returned. Lucy agreed and added that she would meet him at the airport when he returned to get a jump on their additional duties. Ricky instructed Lucy to meet him at the airport when he returned on December 16, 2019, at 10:30pm.

The time until Ricky’s return seemed to accelerate faster as Fred was now working more overtime as his new duties began absorbing additional hours and Lucy was spending more time enjoying her extended vacation. So her time sped by when she noticed that it was December 15th and Ricky would return the next night. Her smartphone rang and Ricky’s voice surprised her. Lucy, I express mailed some very important documents to my office there via UPS, could you please pick them up and bring them to the airport when you pick me up tonight? Certainly Ricky, but what is so important? These documents outline the modifications that will significantly improve the speed and bombing accuracy of our new plane that, your tenant Fred’s group, is working on.

Lucy’s day then turned into a blur as she hurried through one important task after a another, when a thought pushed itself thru her mind to remind her to go to Ricky’s office to retrieve the special delivery package that Ricky had previously mailed there. She arrived, went to Ricky’s office and she started to use her key to open it when she subconsciously noticed that it appeared open. She entered Ricky’s office but did not notice a special delivery package on his desk where she, or her backup, would have placed it. She went into her adjoining office where her backup was sitting at her desk, and asked if a package had arrived? Yes it did and I placed it in our normal spot for such deliveries to Ricky, she responded. Lucy returned to Ricky’s office, but the door was now locked. She retrieved her keys from her purse, opened the door and immediately saw the package nestled in its customary spot on Ricky’s desk. Lucy laughed at herself believing that she initially missed the package. On her way out of the executive office area Lucy saw Fred talking to a strikingly beautiful woman that he introduced as his wife Ethel. Lucy was diplomatically shocked at this news, but she graciously extended her best wishes on the possibility their marital reunion. Fred advised they were in the last stages of their divorce when Ethel called and they started exploring restoration soon after he moved into Lucy’s home. He joked that Lucy may be losing a tenant or gaining another one as Lucy started to leave.

Ethel, there was something about that name that tickled Lucy’s mind, but she had more important matters to deal with how. Lucy returned home, entered her garage where she saw the garbage bag that she had previously forgotten to set out for the garbage truck. Let me do that now before I forget it again, she said to herself. She picked the bag up and began tying the ends when it started slipping from her hand and begin to fall when she grabbed the open top and noticed several empty cans of Cuban spaghetti . She hurriedly placed the cans back into the bag, tied off the ends and laid the bag outside where the garbage collector picked them up.

The name Ethel continued gently remerging through Lucy’s mind as she prepared to meet Ricky. Why was her name important to Lucy, but Ricky’s return was more important tonight. Lucy grabbed Ricky’s special delivery package as she hurried out the door. Lucy quickly drove to the airport where she met Ricky. After briefly discussing his trip, they settled into planning how the meeting would affect the rebuilding of their plane. Ricky then stated how these improvements were going to make him, Lucy and Fred extremely busy soon. Lucy advised Ricky that she had met Fred’s estranged wife, Ethel, earlier at the office when she went to pick the package up. Startled, Ricky asked Lucy, what did you say her name was? Ethel, replied Lucy. Ethel was former intelligence chief Batista’s daughter’s name. Lucy asked if Batista was important to their new office plans, Ricky said he must now suspend Fred’s work on the project and turn the matter over to security for further investigation in conjunction with a State Department investigation Batista is rumored to have sought asylum in Russia. Lucy hurriedly asked Ricky to include the information concerning the Chicken Spaghetti cans. She then remembered the text message that she had forgotten to read earlier. It was a shopping list sent from her smart device that included 12 cans of Chicken Spaghetti, which she had never eaten or purchased before. Ricky then called the chief of Security and gave a full report concerning Fred, Ethel and the plant’s new top secret military order. Lucy provided Ricky a list if the smart devices in her home that Fred had access to.


Ryan G. Bishop, The walls have ears…and eyes…and noses: home smart devices and The Fourth Amendment, 61 Ariz. L. Rev. 667 (2019)

Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Cops Could Potentially have access to thousands of new cameras-on residents’ front doors, David Struett, Sept. 18, 2019.

The Washington Post, Police can keep Ring camera video forever and share with whomever they’d like, Amazon tells senator, Drew Harwell, Nov. 19, 2019.

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