On Thursday, a court in California ordered Apple Inc to face nearly all of a proposed class action lawsuit alleging that its voice-activated Siri assistant violates users’ privacy.
In a case filed, the plaintiffs claimed that Apple’s Siri eavesdropped on their private conversations and recorded them without their knowledge. The court ruled that the plaintiffs could infer that Siri routinely captured their private talks as a result of “unintentional activations” and that Apple shared these recordings with third parties, such as advertisers.
Mobile device users frequently utilize “hot words” such as “Hey, Siri” to trigger voice assistants.
One user said his doctor’s “brand name surgical treatment” triggered targeted advertising for that therapy, while two others claimed their discussions about Air Jordan sneakers, Pit Viper sunglasses, and “Olive Garden” resulted in ads for those items.
Apple argued that plaintiffs should be held liable for not disclosing the contents of their communications, but the private setting alone is enough to show a reasonable expectation of privacy, according to the judge, Jeffrey White.
The plaintiffs in the case, who are families using iPhones and iPads, may pursue claims that Apple violated the federal Wiretap Act and California privacy law, as well as breach of contract. An unfair competition claim was dismissed.
Another federal court in California ruled on July 1 that Google’s Voice Assistant users, represented by the same law firms as Apple, may pursue a similar lawsuit against Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc.
Amazon.com Inc has been faced with similar litigation regarding its Alexa voice assistant.
The case is Lopez et al v. Apple Inc., U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 19-04577.