Amazon Sued Over Alexa Recording Children’s Voices
In a new report, a Massachusetts woman is apparently suing Amazon over privacy related issues. The woman is seeking class action status to sue the company on the behalf on recording children’s voices on eight different states. The lawsuit was filed in the federal court on Seattle on the 11th of June. Amazon is being accused of illegally recording children via its Alexa voice assistant. Additionally, the illegal recordings were also being held by the company contributing,” a massive database of billions of voice recordings containing the private details of millions of Americans.”
The woman that filed the case stated that she had bought Amazon Echo Dot in August of 2018 and was not aware that her child was being recorded. The lawsuit states that children are not eligible to provide consent to being recorded. Furthermore, children at that age are incapable of understanding the implications of having their voices recorded by a company. Most children’ privacy-related issues are filed by referencing the federal COPPA (Children’s’ Online Privacy and Protecting Act) of 1996. This invokes state law, implying that Illinois, Florida, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington all require consent from both parties involved in the case of “the recording of oral communications.”
For example, Apple’s Siri voice assistant abides by these laws by deleting any recordings taken for the tasks at hand. Amazon is being targeted with accusations of forming voiceprints comprising of millions of children. This could imply the company and even the Government being able to track kids’ use of Alexa devices in various locations while cataloguing detailed information on their life. Alexa can essentially record entire communications if the wake word is recognized. The prospect can be daunting considering the device can record private questions and encounters as well.
Amazon is clear in its stance regarding user trust and privacy, however, the company collecting data of children under the age of 13 violates the COPPA regulations. The Echo Dot Kids has a system for getting parental consent, but the argument states that this feature is easily bypassable by a child. Moreover, a report shows that the voice recording on default is saved for an indefinite period of time instead of just retaining it for the given task, as defined by COPPA. These recording cannot be deleted without contacting Amazon’s customer services.
The Amazon Echo Dot Kids serves the purpose of educating and entertaining children but the reality of storing data paints a dark picture for the tech company. A home is a place for comfort and letting one’s guard down but products like these seek to potentially invade the sacred sanctity from within.