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More than 100 million Alexa devices have been sold worldwide, and this is not the first privacy complaint Amazon has encountered due to the practice of recording a home assistant.
In December, Amazon admitted to accidentally sending 1,700 audio files containing Alexa-client interactions to a random person. After the investigation, Snafu, describing it as an “accident”, which led to the mistake of one employee.
And earlier, in 2018, the couple said that an Alexa-enabled Echo device recorded their conversation - without their knowledge - and then sent an audio file to one of their contacts.
Other privacy concerns around gadgets have also caused controversy. In April, it was reported that Amazon employees had wide access to geolocation information for Alexa users, which allowed them to reveal their home addresses and even satellite images of their homes obtained using a service such as Google Earth.
A federal lawsuit claims that Amazon records children who use their Alexa devices without their consent or knowledge.
Alexa is a built-in voice assistant that comes with devices like Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot, Fire TV, and some third-party gadgets.
“It doesn't take a lot of imagination to worry that Amazon is developing voice prints for millions of children that can enable companies (and possibly governments) to track their children’s use of Alexa-enabled devices in multiple places and to compare their use with an extensive level of details of the child’s life, ranging from the personal questions they asked Alex to the products they used in their home, ”the California lawsuit said.
"Amazon does not warn users in any way that it creates permanent voice recordings of its interactions with Alexa, not to mention getting its consent."
Complaints describe how Alexa devices function — being called up using a wake-up word, usually “Alexa.” It is further argued that Alexa captures, records and retains all the votes indiscriminately after waking up, even if the platform is able to distinguish between different speakers.
In a statement to the media, Amazon reiterated its position: “Amazon has long-standing commitments to maintain the trust of our customers and their families, and we have strict measures and protocols to protect their security and privacy,” the company said. “For customers with children, we offer FreeTime on Alexa, a free service that provides parental control and the opportunity for families to learn and have fun together.”
It is unclear what evidence the plaintiffs have against Amazon; the federal lawsuit only claims that “Amazon’s intentional and unlawful recording damaged the plaintiff’s dignity, welfare, and security,” the California state lawsuit said, “Amazon’s deliberate and illegal recording infringed plaintiffs and class members on their privacy in their confidential discrepancies "