Siri, Alexa, and Google Voice Assistants Record Private Conversations in Violation of the Federal Wiretap Act, Lawsuit Claims

A federal judge has authorized a class-action lawsuit alleging that Apple’s Siri voice assistant infringes on customers’ privacy.

According to Reuters, US District Judge Jeffrey White earlier this month let plaintiffs to proceed with cases alleging that Siri routinely captured their private conversations due to “accidental activations” and that Apple sold the recordings to advertisers. Among other things, the plaintiffs allege that Apple violated the federal Wiretap Act and California’s privacy legislation.

Separate cases against Google and Amazon assert similar allegations about voice assistants. One of the most frequently stated assertions in the cases is that conversations were collected without user authorization and subsequently utilized to target plaintiffs by marketers.

This is occurring against the backdrop of soaring sales of smart speakers.

According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, the installed base of smart speakers in the United States reached 126 million devices in June 2021, up from 20 million units in June 2017.

Amazon controls the lion’s share of the installed base, accounting for 69 percent as of June this year.

“The installed base of smart speakers grew considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding over 25 million units in the past year,” said Josh Lowitz, CIRP Partner, and Co-Founder.

Amazon, Apple, and Google all provide smart speakers that have a form of voice assistant technology that is activated by users saying key phrases such as “Hey Siri” for Apple devices, “OK Google” for Google goods, or “Alexa” for Amazon smart devices.

When activated with a key phrase or so-called wake word, Amazon devices save that data. “No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word (or Alexa is activated by pressing a button),” an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business in an email.

Additionally, Amazon stated that it reviews data “manually” but does not sell it to third parties.

By default, Google does not keep audio recordings, according to José Castaeda, a Google spokesperson. “We dispute the claims in this case and will vigorously defend ourselves,” Castaeda said in a statement.

According to a 2019 Apple announcement, Apple no longer retains Siri recordings without the user’s permission. Siri will retain your data only if you opt-in via your Apple device’s settings.

Amazon did not react to a request for comment on the complaint, while Apple did not answer a request for comment.