Amazon Moves to Dismiss Alexa Voice Recording Class Action

On Monday, Inc. and Services LLC (together, Amazon) hit back at allegations that their smart-speaker technology known as Alexa illegally records customers without their knowledge or consent. The defendants’ motion to dismiss asserts that the plaintiffs’ claims rest on the flawed premise that the Alexa service “secretly” records voices. The plaintiffs are wrong and that premise is false, Amazon contends in asking for dismissal of the suit with prejudice.

In their September-filed consolidated complaint, the plaintiffs, residents of several different states, alleged that Amazon obtained and saved their audio recordings absent their consent. The plaintiffs are reportedly comprised of two groups: those who signed up for the Alexa service and registered Alexa-enabled devices, and those who purportedly used the Alexa service without themselves registering. The complaint stated causes of action under various state wiretap laws, the Washington Consumer Protection Act, the federal Wiretap Act, and the Stored Communications Act.

In this week’s 54-page motion, Amazon argues that the plaintiffs have not pleaded any illegal recording because they “misapply[] laws enacted in a different time to address a different problem.” Amazon first asserts that Washington law governs the action and that all other state law claims must be dismissed. Purportedly, this is because the company’s conditions of use bind all registered users to litigate claims under the law of its headquartered state, Washington.

The defendants then take on various arguments about the registered user plaintiffs, including that they consented to recording “to provide, personalize, and improve the Alexa service.” Again, the company stands behind its conditions of use and registration process, explaining that the Alexa terms disclose the fact that Amazon retains voice recordings.

Amazon also claims that it has not violated the Wiretap Act because “as the intended recipient of users’ commands to the Alexa service, Amazon cannot illegally ‘intercept’ those communications.” Likewise, the filing contends, the plaintiffs’ Stored Communications Act claim fails because the law is inapplicable to voice requests made to the Alexa service, which falls outside the statute’s definition of an electronic communications system (ECS).

An ECS, Amazon explains, “is a service that enables users to send or receive electronic communications to or from other users, such as an email service provider or text messaging service.” By contrast, the Alexa service merely enables bilateral communication between users and that service, the motion says. “But even if it did, Amazon is the intended recipient of user commands and does not disclose them to any third party,” the filing adds.

Labaton Sucharow LLP and Robbins Geller Rudman& Dowd LLP are interim co-lead class counsel and Fenwick & West LLP represents Amazon in the matter.