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Suit alleges Amazon's Alexa violates laws by recording children's voices without consent

Benjamin Romano, The Seattle Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

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.

The lawsuit claims Amazon is analyzing and using the recordings it captures through Alexa to benefit its business, and "has strong commercial incentives to collect as many Alexa recordings as possible."

"From the outset, Amazon has been a company built on the relentless acquisition of consumer behavioral data ... now (through) the Alexa Devices it uses as its ears in every home," the lawsuit says.

The complaint cites reporting earlier this year from Bloomberg that revealed Amazon employees and contractors individually review thousands of audio clips recorded by Alexa devices. Amazon said the human reviewers "annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order improve the customer experience." In a list of frequently asked questions about Alexa, Amazon says Alexa requests are used for training. Users can opt out of this use in the privacy settings for Alexa.

The plaintiff is identified as "C.O.," bringing the suit through her parent, Alison Hall-O'Neil. They live in Massachusetts and have had an Alexa Echo Dot in their home since last August. Amazon debuted Alexa and the original cylindrical Echo microphone-and-speaker device in 2014.

C.O. interacted with the Echo Dot to play music, tell jokes and answer questions. She was not aware of, nor did she or her parents consent to, the recording of her communications by Amazon, the complaint states.

 

The plaintiff and would-be class are represented by the law firms Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Keller Lenkner.

(c)2019 The Seattle Times

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