Tuesday, December 10, 2019

#344 / Free Legal Advice

Pictured is one of those "home security" devices, sold by Amazon. Probably millions of people have one of these in their homes. "Alexa" is the name of the software that powers the device, and that executes various commands when you tell it to. 

"Alexa, tell me the weather." You know the drill!

As it happens, Alexa has, actually, been syping on those who have these devices in their homes or places of business. Normal conversations, made in the presence of Alexa, have been recorded, and no warnings about that fact, or inadequate warnings, were provided to those whose conversations were thus being catalogued by or listened to by Amazon employees. 

Because violating a person's privacy can be actionable, a "tort," in legal terms, people are starting to sue Amazon about the surreptitious recordings undertaken by Amazon and Alexa. Someone I know recently got a communication from a legal firm that read as follows:

Thank you for contacting us about your potential claim to get compensated because of Amazon recording you without your consent.  
We are helping customers get compensation from Amazon for unauthorized recordings. We believe many Alexa users may be entitled to thousands in damages. Completing the sign up process only takes another 1 or 2 minutes to answer a couple questions about your experience using Alexa. Once you’ve filled out anything you don’t need to do anything else. We’ll take it from here. 
If you have any questions, please feel free to call or text our office

What the law firm is undoubtedly contemplating is a possible "class action" lawsuit against Amazon. The person who contacted me was concerned about whether or not it made sense to participate in such a lawsuit: 

I really did not know the thing was recording me 24/7. My only concern with joining the class is that I would not want to be banned from Amazon, as I do use their other services, evil as they are. May I have your opinion?

Free legal advice is worth every penny you pay for it, so be advised. Here, however, was my response to this inquiry: 

I always sign up for class action suits, which usually provide me, down the line, with some sort of compensation - I think the most I have ever gotten was something like $100, and the amounts are usually on the order of about $15. I recommend you sign up. 
You will never be able to sue Amazon individually, and this lawsuit will almost certainly produce some recovery by way of settlement. I wouldn’t bank on “thousands in damages,” though. If something really bad had happened to you because of the surreptitious recording done - for instance, if you could prove you had lost a job, etc., because of a disclosure of the recording - then you might well be able to collect thousands - and you would have to sue individually. As someone whose privacy has been invaded, but who doesn't have any proof of any particular bad impact on you, you probably can’t demonstrate much in terms of specific damages, just the general violation of your privacy. 
Someone may have listened to you having sex, or doing something else that you wouldn’t generally want to be overheard, but unless that recording has then been used to shame you, or to cause you some other damage, you’d have a hard time proving your right to lots of money.

I would NOT worry that Amazon won’t take your online book orders - or otherwise let you use their services. Sign up, and see what your privacy is really worth! 
Like I say, I’d bet from $5 to $15!!

I, personally, think my privacy is worth a lot more than an aggrieved person will ever be able to collect through his or her participation in a class action lawsuit. That's why I don't have one of these spy devices in my home, and I would certainly urge others to follow my example.

But that's not really legal advice, is it?

Image Credit:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!