Amazon is being sued in two cases in the US over its Alexa voice assistant’s recording of young children’s voices.
The retailer has been accused of recording children as young as eight and 10 and creating a voiceprint allowing it to keep track of the children’s Alexa use, without the parents’ consent.
Lawyers representing the two parents, as well as other plaintiffs across nine states who are being invited to join the class-action law suit, are seeking damages from the ecommerce giant.
Amazon’s Alexa voice assistants listen for a wakeup word, when that is detected they send a recording of audio captured before and after the wakeup word to Amazon’s computer servers.
These will then be stored to create a profile of the user’s voice to improve accuracy in the future, helping the service to adapt to subtle differences in the user’s voice.
Registered users are able to withdraw consent and delete recording of their voice via an app.
The children in both the cases are understood to have interacted with their Echo Dot speakers, but the parents allege they never gave permission for their children to be recorded.
By building a profile of the children’s voices, the plaintiffs state that Amazon is able to build a “vast level of detail about the child’s life”.
“At no point does Amazon warn unregistered users it is creating persistent voice recordings of their Alexa interactions, let alone obtain their consent to do so,” the complaints state.
“Neither the children nor the parents have consented to the children’s interactions being permanently recorded.”
They go on to suggest that Amazon could do more to ensure children were not unknowingly recorded, including overwriting recordings after they have been processed.
Amazon responded to the complaints, telling the BBC: “Amazon has a longstanding commitment to preserving the trust of our customers and their families, and we have strict measures and protocols in place to protect their security and privacy.”
It added that it only stores data once a device-owner has given it permission to do so, and that parents are able to delete a child’s profile and recordings.