Lawsuits Claim Amazon’s Alexa Illegally Records Children

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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.

News Alexa Children Lawsuit Echo

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.

Buyer Beware

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.

4 comments

  1. “Lawsuits Claim Amazon’s Alexa Illegally Records Children”
    While I agree with the assertions of the suit, I find it to be another example of using children to accomplish the adults’ agenda. Why don’t the parents/lawyers file the suit in the parents’ names instead of their children’s? Is it perhaps to play the emotion card? Big, bad Amazon is recording our children without their permission!!! How dare they!

    Alexa and other smart speakers record ALL that they “hear”, adults, children and other noises without asking anyone’s explicit permission. It seems that when users buy the speakers, it is automatically assumed by the companies that they are automatically given an implicit permission to record anything and everything.

    “The question is if this comes down to Amazon responsibility or parental responsibility.”
    Why is Amazon recording ANYTHING without specific permission?
    Parents, as supposedly reasoning adults, should supervise their children’s activities, especially their online activities.
    So, both Amazon and the parents are responsible.

    The suit brings up some interesting questions:
    How is Alexa supposed to distinguish for certain between children’s voices and adult voices?
    How is the permission for recording everything be given? By voice or in writing?
    Since minors are not legally able to give/deny consent in many cases (money management, intercourse, etc) will their granting or denial of permission to record will be legally binding?

    1. I tend to agree, but I fault the parents more than Amazon. I think they are too focused on the coolness factor and not enough on potential dangers. Amazon has a right to sell anything they want, even if it records us. It’s our choice whether we want to buy it or not, but children don’t have that choice like their parents have.

      I find it to be a baseless lawsuit, that you’re right, is filed on behalf of children when it should by their parents. And for it to be class action is ridiculous, that every single child whose parent owns an Echo device could be awarded money. There are videos all over YouTube of kids doing cute things with Alexa (the little girl asking it to play Baby Shark for one), and I don’t think those parents are looking for a monetary reward.

  2. ” I think they are too focused on the coolness factor ”
    Or are they using Alexa as an electronic babysitter?

    “Amazon has a right to sell anything they want, even if it records us.”
    Yes, Amazon has the right to sell anything they want but they do not have the right to record us without our permission or, at least, informing us that they are recording It is against the law to record any conversation without informing the other person that you are recording. Why is Amazon allowed to do it? When you buy Mac laptop with a microphone, does Apple acquire the right to record any sounds within the range of the mike? When you buy a laptop with a built-in camera, do you automatically give the manufacturer permission to record anything that the camera sees?

    “I find it to be a baseless lawsuit”
    Is it? Where did Amazon get the right to record us? Unless you believe that anything that is not specifically forbidden is allowed, which opens up a big can of worms.

    “every single child whose parent owns an Echo device could be awarded money”
    It’s a “deep pockets” suit.

  3. Now that Amazon has admitted that they record anything and everything Alexa hears, and stores it forever, I wonder how long it will be before law enforcement and various alphabet agencies within the government demand unfettered access to those records and the records of other smart speaker manufacturers in order to “prevent terrorism” and solve crimes.

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