Many people these days add an Echo device to their kitchen to help them with certain tasks throughout the day such as news, weather reports, information requests, recipe help, communication, etc. Kids like to use Alexa, too, asking to hear their favorite song perhaps.
But a pair of lawsuits against Amazon claim it’s not all that safe for children and that the Alexa voice assistant is illegally recording children without their consent.
Amazon Alexa Lawsuits
Two federal class action lawsuits claim Amazon’s Alexa “routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents,” which breaks the law in several states.
The suits were filed on behalf of an 8-year-old and 10-year-old. They are seeking damages under privacy laws in nine states.
“What all nine have in common is they are what’s known as two-party consent states,” said attorney Travis Lenkner. “An audio recording of a conversation or of another person requires the consent of both sides to that interaction in these states and when such consent is not obtained, these state laws contain penalties, including set amounts of statutory damages per violation.”
Sure, it may seem innocent when your child is playing with Alexa, asking the Echo device to do any number of things, but the lawsuits claim Amazon saves “a permanent recording of the user’s voice” and also records and transmits whatever is said after Alexa’s wake word.
Where the problem comes in is that Amazon doesn’t inform users that these conversations are being permanently recorded and doesn’t ask for permission before recording.
The lawsuit suggests the devices could inform users who had not previously consented to be recorded that they are about to be recorded or could deactivate the recording for users who have not given their permission.
“But Alexa does not do this,” according to the lawsuits. “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.”
An Amazon spokeswoman refers to Amazon FreeTime that includes Alexa support and says it’s a “dedicated service that helps parents manage the ways their kids interact with technology, including limiting screen time.” It allows parents to delete profiles or recordings of their children and requires apps to ask for consent to collect data. Alexa skills have similar requirements.
The plaintiffs are asking for the judge to certify the suits as class action and would like Amazon to delete all recordings of those listed on the suit while also seeking damages that will be determined at trial.
The question is if this comes down to Amazon responsibility or parental responsibility. It could be argued that if you buy an Amazon Echo and put it in your home, knowing your children will be using it, that you should be well aware that it’s recording your children. I’m sure many people don’t allow these devices in their home just for that reason.
Whose responsibility is this: the parents or Amazon? Should Amazon be doing more to warn parents and should they not even be selling a product that has the capability to record children? Should they not be holding onto Alexa recordings in the first place? Or should parents just be more aware? Chime in to the comments with your thoughts and concerns.