A federal judge in Illinois has ruled that potentially any Illinois resident who has spoken to an Alexa-enabled device could be part of a class action lawsuit against Amazon. The suit, which could amount to billions in damages under the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), accuses Amazon of recording and analyzing users’ voiceprints without consent.
On October 31, U.S. District Judge Franklin U. Valderrama denied Amazon’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, initially filed in 2019. The claim is based on allegations that Amazon’s Alexa devices record users’ voices to create unique voiceprints for identification purposes, a potential violation of BIPA, which requires explicit consent for collecting biometric data.
Amazon warned that the ruling could impact Illinoisans’ access to voice-activated technology. The lawsuit emphasizes BIPA’s notice and consent provisions, under which plaintiffs can seek $1,000 to $5,000 per violation. As Alexa devices are pervasive, with millions of interactions daily, the total damages could be substantial.
The precedent set by the Illinois Supreme Court since 2019 strengthens the plaintiffs’ position, as they need not demonstrate actual harm, only that the law’s technical requirements were violated. This case follows other high-profile BIPA lawsuits against companies like Facebook and Google, resulting in multimillion-dollar settlements.
In a critical analysis of the Wilcosky et al. v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al. case, lawyers from Duane Morris LLP emphasize the stringent requirements for notice and consent under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The ruling underlines the potential risks for companies in Illinois collecting data that could be deemed “biometric,” suggesting they review and update their privacy policies to align with BIPA’s standards.
The decision also raises questions about whether companies should label data as “biometric” within their privacy notices, even when its status as such is debatable, erring on the side of caution given the ongoing litigation and lack of clarity around what constitutes “biometric” data under BIPA, the lawyers suggest.
November 6, 2023 – by the FindBiometrics Editorial Team