Amazon Seeks Stay of Proceedings to Prevent Doc Disclosure in ‘Alexa’ Privacy Suit

Last Thursday, Amazon moved to stay discovery and for a protective order concerning the plaintiffs’ non-party subpoenas until the court resolves Amazon’s pending motion to dismiss in the consumer privacy suit. The filing explains that the plaintiffs have volleyed barrage of “overbroad and irrelevant” document requests in the form of third-party subpoenas allegedly intended to harass Amazon and its commercial partners.

The case, filed last June, alleges that the Amazon smart speaker virtual assistant, “Alexa,” collects and saves audio recordings of non-consenting parties, including both registered and non-registered users of the Alexa voice service. The filing argues that the accused conduct does not improve user experience and that the conversations are “located and stored in a cold server owned by Amazon—and left in Amazon’s hands to use as they see fit.”

Amazon sought dismissal of the consolidated case in October, arguing that the claims rest on the false premise that Amazon secretly records users’ voices when it, in fact, does not. In this week’s motion, Amazon takes aim at alleged concessions the plaintiffs made in their opposition to its motion to dismiss.

The company asserts that those admissions limit the plaintiffs’ claims and further the likelihood that its motion will resolve the case in part or whole. “Plaintiffs effectively conceded that their privacy claims concerning Amazon’s Alexa voice service center on the occurrence of ‘false wakes,’ rather than their intentional instructions to Alexa,” the motion says.

The filing urges the court to pause the case in order to stem the tide of “overreaching and harassing discovery tactics,” including a “salvo of third-party subpoenas seek[ing] documents from 39 Amazon partners.” The partners subpoenaed include Bose Corporation, Dell Technologies Inc., GN Audio USA Inc., Lenovo (United States) Inc., Newell Brands, Inc., and Sonos Inc.

The motion specifies that the discovery requests ask for a massive swath of information including documents about Alexa services, the ability of Alexa-enabled devices to recognize the person using the device, and other communications between Amazon and device manufacturers.

Amazon says that the court has discretion to pause discovery and should do so for the sake of the non-party subpoena recipients. “Plaintiffs have no legitimate basis for subpoenaing dozens of Amazon’s third-party partners with repetitive, overbroad, and generic document requests for information unrelated to false wakes, before the pleadings are set or before the parties have conducted any discovery,” the motion argues.

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