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article imageAmazon sued over Alexa's recording of child's voice

By Tim Sandle     Jun 14, 2019 in Technology
Amazon is to be sued in the U.S. over recordings made by Alexa of a child. Two separate cases allege that Amazon did not have the consent to create the voiceprints of children talking to the personal digital assistant.
The lawsuits express the concern that Amazon can keep track of a youngster's use of Alexa-enabled devices and from this it is possible to construct a "vast level of detail about the child's life". According to the BBC, Amazon has responded that it only stores data once a device-owner has given it permission to do so.
READ MORE: Amazon staff may be listening in on Alexa recordings
Amazon further states that Alexa is not listening in all of the time. Alexa's ability to hear (and record) what is being said only begins when the user triggers the wake command to the voice assistant, typically by speaking triggers like 'Alexa', 'Amazon', 'computer' or 'Echo'. Over 100 million devices featuring Alexa have now been sold worldwide.
Amazon s Alexa personal digital assistant.
Amazon's Alexa personal digital assistant.
Concern with Amazon recording children was recently raised by Alan Davidson, who is the vice-president of global policy, trust and security for Mozilla. As Digital Journal reported, Davidson discovered that his Amazon Echo device had been recording conversations among his young children. Davidson discovered this when he examined online records.
With the new legal actions, two class action cases are being pursued. The first has been filed in Los Angeles on behalf of an eight-year-old boy. The second has been filed in Seattle on behalf of a 10-year-old girl. When children wake up an Alexa-enabled device, “the device records and transmits the children’s communications in the same manner that it handles adults’ communications,” the cases allege, as the New York Post reports.
The Seattle litigation draws out the key issue that the courts will be grappling with: “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.”
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