Lawsuits claim Amazon's Alexa illegally recorded kids


Two lawsuits against Amazon claim that the company’s Alexa voice assistant illegally records kids without parental consent.

The federal lawsuits, both of which were filed on Tuesday and seek class action status, allege that Alexa-enabled devices, such as the Echo and Echo Dot, violate laws in nine states — California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington — by storing recordings of children, according to court documents.

One suit was filed in Seattle, while the other was filed in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs are a 10-year-old who lives in Massachusetts and an 8-year who lives in California, respectively.

“The privacy interest is all the more powerful in light of modern voice printing technology and the potentially invasive uses of big data by a company the size of Amazon,” the Seattle lawsuit reads. “It takes no great leap of imagination to be concerned that Amazon is developing voiceprints for millions of children” and tracking their use of Alexa-enabled devices “with a vast level of detail about the child’s life.”

After Alexa listens to a user’s commands, Amazon allegedly “saves a permanent recording of the user’s voice to its own servers,” one suit reads.

“When children say a wake word to an Alexa Device, the device records and transmits the children’s communications in the same manner that it handles adults’ communications. Neither the children nor their parents have consented to the children’s interactions being permanently recorded,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawyers are seeking monetary compensation for the plaintiffs as well as an injunction that requires Amazon to get consent before it records minors’ interactions with Alexa. The lawsuit also asks Amazon to delete any existing recordings of children's voices.

The day after the suits were filed, Amazon announced the newest generation of its Echo Dot Kids speaker. As it delivered the product news, Amazon also said “none of the Alexa skills” in its “FreeTime” games and media service “have access to or collect personal information from children.”

Amazon added that “there are multiple ways to delete a child’s profile or voice recordings.”

In May, lawmakers and public interest groups called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids due to claims that the company was violating privacy rights by storing kids’ recordings without parental consent.

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