Amazon was slapped with a pair of class-action lawsuits this week over its Alexa voice assistant, which is getting accused of recording and storing the voices of children without their or their parents’ consent.
Both cases portray kids as vulnerable to Alexa’s voice recording and transcription technology, which allows Amazon to amass “a vast level of detail about the child’s life, ranging from private questions they have asked Alexa to the products they have used in their home.”
The suits also claim the technology violates laws in eight states that prohibit the recording of oral communications without the consent of all participating parties.
One case was filed in Seattle federal court on behalf of a 10-year-old girl; the other in Los Angeles state court on behalf an 8-year-old boy.
Both claim the kids use an Echo Dot, Amazon’s most popular smart speaker, with sales in excess of 50 million units.
The girl, who lives in Massachusetts, was not an Alexa-registered user, but “directly interacted” with the Echo Dot, according to the suit, using it “to tell jokes, play music and answer questions.”
When children wake up an Alexa-enabled device, “the device records and transmits the children’s communications in the same manner that it handles adults’ communications,” the cases allege. “Neither the children nor their parents have consented to the children’s interactions being permanently recorded.”
Amazon countered that it has “strict measures and protocols in place to protect [family] security and privacy.” And in a statement to The Post, it specifically addressed customers with kids.
“We offer FreeTime on Alexa — a free service that provides parental controls and ways for families to learn and have fun together,” it said.
Casting Amazon as Big Brother, the cases accuse the company of building “a massive database of billions of voice recordings containing the private details of millions of Americans” and using it “for its own commercial benefit.”
The Seattle case seeks damages up to $100 a day; the California case wants damages of $5,000 per violation.
Both demand that Amazon obtain prior consent before recording minors and that existing recordings of them be deleted.
Law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan drew up both complaints, which use the same language except for sections presenting the minors who serve as plaintiffs.
Author: Richard Morgan