A recent lawsuit is alleging that Amazon’s voice-controlled Alexa devices violate laws by recording children’s voices without their parent’s consent. The Seattle Times reports that a new lawsuit filed in Seattle is alleging that Amazon’s voice-controlled Alexa devices violate laws governing recording in eight states. The lawsuit claims that the recording of underage users is illegal and could land the tech firm in hot water.
A complaint filed in Seattle on behalf of 10-year-old Massachusetts girl states: “Alexa routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents.” A similar suit was later filed the same day in the California Superior Court in Los Angeles on behalf of an 8-year-old boy.
The federal complaint, which is seeking class-action status, takes issue with Amazon’s process of keeping “a permanent recording of the user’s voice,” noting that other similar devices only keep recordings for a small period of time or no time at all. The lawsuit states that Alexa devices have the capability of identifying individual users by their voice pattern, but don’t do this choosing instead to respond to anyone that states a specific “wake word.”
The lawsuit states that the devices could single out specific users and could deactivate permanent recordings of users. “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 also states that aside from the privacy issues relating to keeping users voice recordings: “It takes no great leap of imagination to be concerned that Amazon is developing voiceprints for millions of children that could allow the company (and potentially governments) to track a child’s use of Alexa-enabled devices in multiple locations and match those uses with 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.”
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the issue.