In a class action lawsuit of parents suing Amazon for recording their children without consent, Amazon lawyers have claimed that anyone using Alexa has entered a contract, allowing for arbitration rather than a lawsuit. However, U.S Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson denied this claim, preventing arbitration and continuing with the class action law suit, according to an article from the Chicago Tribune.
The suit’s plaintiffs are 23 children whose parents entered a contact with Amazon, but according to the judge, the children are not under contract, even if they have used or benefitted from the use of Alexa. In a report attached to her proposed order, Peterson wrote that if everyone who used Alexa was automatically under contract with Amazon, it would lead to “absurd results, as even a casual visitor to a residence could be bound by an agreement without notice”.
Alexa Causes Privacy Concerns
This is not the first time that Amazon has been criticized for recording people without their knowledge. In March of 2018, a woman from Portland said Alexa recorded a private conversation and sent it to one of her contacts. Amazon claimed that the Echo thought it heard the wake word “Alexa,” and then incorrectly interpreted background noise, saying this this event was “unlikely”. Amazon also encountered criticism when it was revealed that Amazon employees listen to users’ recordings in order to improve the voice assistant’s artificial intelligence capabilities.
In response, members of the California state legislature proposed the “Anti-Eavesdropping Act,” which could require users to consent to tech companies storing their voice recordings. Jordan Cunningham, a Republican assemblyman, received bipartisan support from many Democrats as well as support from his constituents in San Luis Obispo County,
“I’ve heard from constituents they widely support the idea that their personal conversations that occur in the intimacy of their home should remain private…and they’re not giving permission to a company to store and retain those recordings by buying a speaker.”
As of July 2019, the bill received 44 to six ayes to noes on the Assembly Floor and nine ayes from the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee.