Lawsuits Claim Amazon’s Alexa Voice Assistant Illegally Records Children Without Consent

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Seattle Times: A lawsuit filed in Seattle alleges Amazon is recording children who use its Alexa devices without their consent, in violation of laws governing recordings in at least eight states, including Washington. “Alexa routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents,” according to a complaint filed on behalf of a 10-year-old Massachusetts girl on Tuesday in federal court in Seattle. Another nearly identical suit was filed the same day in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, on behalf of an 8-year-old boy. The federal complaint, which seeks class-action status, describes Amazon’s practice of saving “a permanent recording of the user’s voice” and contrasts that with other makers of voice-controlled computing devices that delete recordings after storing them for a short time or not at all.

The complaint notes that Alexa devices record and transmit any speech captured after a “wake word” activates the device, regardless of the speaker and whether that person purchased the device or installed the associated app. It says the Alexa system is capable of identifying individual speakers based on their voices and Amazon could choose to inform users who had not previously consented that they were being recorded and ask for consent. It could also deactivate permanent recording for users who had not consented. “But Alexa does not do this,” the lawsuit claims. “At no point does Amazon warn unregistered users that it is creating persistent voice recordings of their Alexa interactions, let alone obtain their consent to do so.” The lawsuit goes on to say that Amazon’s failure to obtain consent violates the laws of Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington, which require consent of all parties to a recording, regardless of age.

“The proposed class only includes minors in those states “who have used Alexa in their home and have therefore been recorded by Amazon, without consent,'” reports The Seattle Times. “The suit asks a judge to certify the class action and rule that Amazon violated state laws; require it to delete all recordings of class members; and prevent further recording without prior consent. It seeks damages to be determined at trial.”

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