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Amazon hit by lawsuit over claims that it records kids without consent

Amazon Alexa has sparked a new controversy. Amazon has been hit a set of lawsuits which allege that the company recorded voiceprints of millions of children without getting proper consent from their parents.

According to a report by The Seattle Times, two lawsuits — one filed on behalf of an eight-year-old boy from California and the other filed on behalf of a 10-year-old girl from Massachusetts – allege that Alexa “routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents”.

The complaint filed on behalf of the 10-year-old girl notes that the Alexa-enabled devices record and transmit everything that is said to them once they have been activated using the wake word, that is “Alexa”. This, the lawsuit alleges, happens irrespective of who the speaker is and if the person has purchased the device or installed the relevant app.

The lawsuit also claims that Alexa can identify speakers based on their voices and that the Seattle based tech giant using its smart speakers can choose to ask user – who had not consented to being recorded – for their consent. The company could also inform such people before recording their voices. However, the company does not follow this practice.

“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 publication wrote citing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Amazon’s failure to obtain proper consent before recording speakers’ voices violates laws in at least eight states in the US, which includes – Washington, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire and Maryland. It is now demanding a class action status for the lawsuit. In addition to this, the lawsuit is asking the court to force Amazon to delete all recordings of class members and obtain consent before making future recordings.

Separately, a coalition of 19 child’s right and privacy advocates filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last month urging the federal agency to investigate the tech giant for violating the children’s privacy via its Echo Dot Kids Edition smartspeakers. In their complaint, the coalition has alleged that Amazon retained data pertaining to kids even after parents had deleted it and that the company’s parental consent mechanism does not confirm if the person giving the consent is a parent of the child or an adult or not. Amazon on its part had rejected the reports saying that all its products were in compliance with the federal law.

The company, last month, also highlighted that parental consent is required to enabled Amazon FreeTime that is intended to help parents manage their kids’ use of technology.


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