Judge Sides Against Amazon In Privacy Battle Over Children's Voiceprints

Siding against Amazon, a federal magistrate judge has recommended that a group of parents should be allowed to proceed with claims that the company violated children's privacy by collecting their voiceprints.

In a report issued last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson in Seattle recommended that the presiding judge reject Amazon's bid to send the case to arbitration.

Amazon said in court papers filed Wednesday that it plans to ask U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones to reject Peterson's recommendation.

The lawsuit was brought earlier this year by a group of parents who allege that Amazon's Alexa violates their children's privacy by capturing and storing their voiceprints. The parents contend that Alexa's voiceprint collection violates privacy laws in eight states -- Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

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Amazon argued that that the parents were required to accept an arbitration agreement before they activated Alexa. The company contended those agreements also apply to the children, even though they didn't sign them.

Amazon's argument relied on the idea that the children could only access Alexa because their parents agreed to the company's terms, including the arbitration mandate.

Peterson rejected that argument, concluding that the children themselves never agreed to arbitrate disputes with Amazon, and therefore weren't bound by the arbitration agreements.

She specifically rejected the idea that an individual who didn't agree to arbitration should be bound by an arbitration clause “simply because he or she directly benefited in some way from using the product or service.”

Amazon is expected to file its next round of written arguments by Monday.

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