SEATTLE — Amazon's Alexa-controlled devices are violating Washington state law by recording people without their consent, a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Seattle states.
The lawsuit, which lists seven other states, focuses on children being unknowingly recorded.
"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 .... 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," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit further states that at no point are unregistered users of devices such as the Echo warned that their voice is being recorded. If the company wanted to, Alexa could determine whether or not the person speaking has registered and agreed to be recorded, but it does not, according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs are requesting Amazon destroy recordings of user interactions with Alexa-controlled devices, and implement changes to prevent unauthorized recordings.
A similar lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles.
When asked to comment, Amazon sent this statement to KING 5:
“Amazon has a longstanding commitment to preserving the trust of our customers and their families, and we have strict measures and protocols in place to protect their security and privacy. For customers with kids, we offer FreeTime on Alexa, a free service that provides parental controls and ways for families to learn and have fun together. Learn more about FreeTime on Alexa here: https://blog.aboutamazon.com/devices/amazon-freetimes-approach-to-family-privacy-and-safety.”
The allegations are just the latest in a saga of distrust from some over Amazon devices. In April, it was reported the company employs thousands of people around the world to listen to voice recordings from smart speakers such as the Echo. That work includes transcribing recordings to further improve how Alexa responds to commands.
As reported in GeekWire, a May blog post by Amazon points out that Amazon FreeTime is a service that allows parents to review and delete voice recordings within the Alexa app or on the website, as well as by contacting customer service.
A day after the lawsuits were filed, Amazon published a blog promoting the Echo Dot Kids Edition and new FreeTime on Alexa features. It reminds users of the FreeTime features, as "we adhere to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act."
"None of the Alexa skills included within FreeTime Unlimited have access to or collect personal information from children, and there are multiple ways to delete a child’s profile or voice recordings," the company wrote.