Apple to face Siri Voice Assistant’s privacy lawsuit, the US judge said

A federal judge said on Thursday that Apple must face nearly all of the proposed class actions, alleging that its voice-activated assistant Siri violates users’ privacy.

US District Judge Jeffrey White said plaintiffs could try to prove that Siri routinely recorded their private conversations because of “accidental activations” and that Apple disclosed those conversations to third parties, such as advertisers.

Voice assistants often react when mobile device owners use “hot words” like “Hey Siri”.

One Siri user said his private discussions with his doctor about a “branded surgical treatment” led him to receive targeted advertisements for this treatment, while two others said their discussions about Air Jordan sneakers, Pit Viper sunglasses and “Olive Garden ” led them to receive advertisements for these products.

“Apple blames the plaintiffs for not claiming the content of their communications, but the private environment alone is sufficient to show a reasonable expectation of privacy,” wrote White.

The Oakland, Calif., judge said plaintiffs can pursue allegations that Apple violated the Federal Wiretapping Act and California privacy law, and committed breach of contract. He rejected an unfair competition claim.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The plaintiffs’ lawyers did not immediately respond to similar requests.

On July 1, another California federal judge said Google Voice Assistant users, represented by the same law firms in Apple’s case, could file a similar lawsuit against Google and its parent Alphabet.

Amazon faced similar litigation over its voice assistant Alexa.

The case is Lopez et al v. Apple, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 19-04577.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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