Earlier this month, a federal judge denied Amazon’s motion to compel arbitration in the privacy battle over the collection of children’s voiceprints.
The class action complaint (Hall-O'Neil v. Amazon.com Inc et al, Case No.: 2:2019-cv-00910) was brought in 2019 by a group of parents alleging that Amazon’s Alexa violates state privacy law by collecting and storing children’s voiceprints without obtaining consent. In a bid to prevent the case from proceeding in court, Amazon brought a motion to move the dispute to arbitration arguing that the dispute belongs in arbitration as part of the terms of service agreed to by the parents when registering for the service. However, the court found that children cannot be bound by such arbitration clauses as non-signatories. The court noted that requiring arbitration in such a matter could “lead to absurd results, where any nonregistered user who uses the devices in question could be bound by the arbitration agreement.”
The complaint alleges that Amazon’s smart-speaker technology “Alexa” records and voiceprints millions of children, collecting their sensitive information and making a permanent recording of the user’s voice. Aside from “the unique privacy interest” involved in recording someone’s voice, the lawsuit says, “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.”
The class action complaint states that the alleged voiceprint collection violates privacy laws in eight states -- Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Similar class actions have also been filed in California and Massachusetts.
Summary By: Jennifer R Davidson
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