Disputing Blog by Karl Bayer, Victoria VanBuren, and Holly Hayes
Retail giant Amazon has reportedly asked a Washington federal court to send a proposed class action lawsuit that was brought against the company in June to arbitration. In the case, a group of parents filed a putative collective action complaint against Amazon in the Western District of Washington in Seattle over the company’s Alexa technology. The parents claim the merchant violated the law in several states when Alexa-enabled devices recorded their children speaking in their homes without first obtaining consent.
In their complaint, the parents assert:
Alexa routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents. This practice violates the laws of Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington, which prohibit the recording of oral communications without the consent of all parties to the communication. These laws recognize the unique privacy interest implicated by the recording of someone’s voice. That privacy interest is all the more powerful in light of modern voice printing technology and the potentially invasive uses of big data by a company the size of Amazon. It takes no great leap of imagination to be concerned that Amazon is developing voiceprints for millions of children that could allow the company (and potentially governments) to track a child’s use of Alexa-enabled devices in multiple locations and match those uses with a vast level of detail about the child’s life, ranging from private questions they have asked Alexa to the products they have used in their home.
According to Amazon, however, the parents agreed to settle any disputes with the company through arbitration when they activated and began using Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon’s motion to compel arbitration reportedly claims, “The plaintiffs’ parents in this suit, who signed up for and then permitted their children to use Amazon’s Alexa service on devices in their homes cannot avoid arbitrating their claims by suing in the names of those children.
Please check back soon for future developments in this interesting case!