Lawsuit claims Alexa illegally recorded children without consent

13 Jun 2019

Amazon Echo Dot. Image: akulamatiau/Depositphotos

Lawsuits filed in California and Washington allege that Alexa illegally recorded children without their consent.

A pair of lawsuits levelled against Amazon allege that the company’s voice assistant, Alexa, illegally recorded children.

The two complaints, filed in California and Washington respectively, allege that Alexa “routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents”. They explain that this in violation of laws in nine states. The suits were filed on behalf of an eight-year-old child in California and a 10-year-old child in Massachusetts.

“What all nine have in common is they are what’s known as two-party consent states,” Travis Lenkner of Keller Lenker (a Chicago law firm involved in filing the suits) told The Recorder. “An audio recording of a conversation or of another person requires the consent of both sides to that interaction in these states, and when such consent is not obtained these state laws contain penalties, including set amounts of statutory damages per violation.”

The complaints also maintain that users more broadly have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using the service and that they would not expect that Alexa is “creating and storing a permanent recording of their voice”, claiming that Alexa analyses the stored recordings “for its own commercial benefit”.

They continued: “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 lawsuits claim that Amazon has net sales of $232bn as of 2018 and is the world’s largest provider of cloud computing services. According to some sources, Amazon Web Services enables as much as 42pc of the internet “which is more than double Microsoft, Google and IBM combined”.

At the time of writing, Amazon had not yet responded to requests for comment made by

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic