Amazon sued over recording what children say to Alexa


Amazon’s Alexa smart home devices have sparked a lawsuit that alleges the company recorded audio from millions of children without first getting proper consent from their parents.

According to the Seattle Times, a lawsuit filed in the city’s federal court accuses Amazon of violating privacy laws in eight different states that require all parties to consent to a voice recording, regardless of age.

The lawsuit claims that Amazon is using the recordings to glean the habits and personal information of children.

The lawsuit claims that Amazon is using the recordings to glean the habits and personal information of children.Credit:AP

Alexa-powered devices regularly record audio when activated with a wake word, which is “Alexa” by default. Earlier this year Bloomberg found that Amazon employees listen to these recordings and occasionally annotate an “extremely small sample” of them for training purposes.

Bloomberg reported that members of the Amazon team that listens to these recordings can listen to as many as 1,000 clips during a nine-hour shift.

The Seattle lawsuit claims that Alexa records people regardless of whether they purchased the device or signed up to use the Alexa app, and doesn’t warn unregistered users that they’re being recorded. The suit goes on to allege that Amazon is violating laws in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington by not obtaining explicit consent.

While consent is required regardless of age in these states, the lawsuit is specifically concerned with protecting minors. The lawsuit claims that Amazon is using the data to glean the habits and personal information of children and “has strong commercial incentives to collect as many Alexa recordings as possible.”

If the court finds in favour of the plaintiff, the lawsuit wants Amazon to delete all recordings of underage users and prevent future recordings unless the user grants consent. Additional damages would be considered by the court during the trial.

Alexa owners can manage how Amazon reviews their data via the Alexa app, but you need to opt-out of the “help develop new features” option. Following the Bloomberg report, Amazon introduced a new feature to have Alexa delete all of your voice recordings, but you have to opt in to activate the deletion command and it will only delete your recordings from the current calendar day.

The company also launched a new Alexa privacy hub to make it easier to delete your past recordings and manage your smart device settings.

This story first appeared in Business Insider. Read it here or follow BusinessInsider Australia on Facebook.