Lawsuit claims Amazon’s Alexa devices record without consent

Amazon Alexa

Amazon Alexa

In the U.S., a pair of federal lawsuits against Amazon seeking class action status allege that the e-commerce giant's Alexa voice assistant technology "routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents", breaking laws in nine states, the Seattle Times reported on Wednesday.

In the complaint is filed by two law firms, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Keller Lenkner, on behalf of an unnamed minor and other similarly situated children, plaintiffs criticize Amazon's methods, alleging that the company, despite having the choice to scramble or encrypt user voices, instead retains, analyzes, and uses actual voice recordings so that it can use them for commercial benefit. They are also seeking damages of up to $5,000 per violation of the privacy laws in the nine aforementioned states.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.

"At no point does Amazon warn unregistered users it is creating persistent voice recordings of their Alexa interactions, let alone obtain their consent to do so", the complaints state.

There are now 2 clients involved in the case; an 8-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. It was announced by Amazon in January that over 100 million devices featuring Alexa had been sold.

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For example, users need to ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, help with math facts, control supported lights, or tell jokes.

Alexa recognizes voices so if a new voice is heard, Amazon can ask for consent from the person who owns the device. what they failed to do according to the lawsuit. "They expect that this digital query is sent over the internet for processing, that a digital response is returned, and that the device then converts the response into Alexa's voice". It highlights how a parent can contact the company if they wish to delete their child's voice profile and any personal information, as well delete voice recordings through the app.

Dave Limp, the executive in charge of Alexa told the BBC that only 1% of utterances were ever checked.

As well as offering this discount, Amazon is also allowing customers to pay for the speaker interest-free over five months. Other technologies store these recordings for only a short time or do not record them at all.

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