Apple faces new Class Action for unlawful and intentional recording of individuals’ confidential communications on Siri without their consent
Last week Patently Apple posted a report titled "With Apple's Siri "Grading" in the Privacy Spotlight, Apple Decides to Temporarily Suspend the Practice." Apparently for some, that action came a little too late and they've filed a four-count class action against Apple.
Summary of Allegations
This action arises from Defendant’s unlawful and intentional recording of individuals’ confidential communications without their consent from approximately October 2011 to the present [in violation of four laws listed below].
Siri is a voice-recognition software program developed by Apple that allows individuals to use their voice to ask questions and receive answers based on information available on the internet. Apple preloads Siri on devices it manufactures, including Apple’s iPhone smartphones, iPad tablets, Apple Watches, AirPod headphones, HomePod smart speakers, MacBook laptops, and iMac computers (“Siri Devices”).
Siri Devices are only supposed to record conversations preceded by the utterance of “Hey Siri” (a “wake phrase”) or through a specific gesture, such as pressing the home button on a device for a specified amount of time. California law prohibits the recording of oral communications without the consent of all parties to the communication. California’s privacy laws recognize the unique privacy interest implicated by the recording of someone’s voice. This privacy interest has been heightened by recent reports government agencies of multiple countries are secretly collecting voice samples with the aim of being able to “voiceprint” any living person, and by the fact the private technology companies are constantly searching for ways to acquire and exploit consumers’ personal information.
Individuals who have purchased or used Siri Devices and interacted with Siri have not consented to Apple recording conversations where “Hey Siri” was not uttered or where they did not otherwise perform a gesture intending to activate Siri, such as pressing and holding down the home button on a device for a certain period of time. Similarly, minors who did not purchase Apple products or set them up in their homes have not consented to these recordings.
On July 26, 2019, The Guardian reported that Apple had hired contractors to review recordings made by Siri Devices and that many recordings reviewed were made without the knowledge of the individuals recorded. According to The Guardian’s source, it is a “regular” occurrence for Siri Devices to record nonconsenting individuals where no wake phrase has been uttered or no button has been pushed. The content of the unauthorized recordings made by Siri Devices include, according to The Guardian’s source, “confidential medical information, drug deals, and the recordings of couples having sex.”
Significantly, Apple knows that unauthorized recordings are common and as such tasks its human reviewers with, among other things, identifying whether Siri was deliberately activated or not. Despite this, Apple has not informed consumers they are regularly being recorded without consent.
Apple has sold millions of Siri Devices to consumers during the Class Period. Many of these consumers would not have bought their Siri Devices if they had known Apple was recording their conversations without consent.
Given the concealed and secretive nature of Defendant’s conduct, more evidence supporting the allegations in this Complaint will be uncovered after a reasonable opportunity for discovery.
Causes for Action
Count 1: Violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act
Count 2: Violation of the California Unfair Competition Law
Count 3: Violation of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act
Count 4: Violation of the Declaratory Judgment Act
For more details on this case, review the full Class Action lawsuit filing presented below, courtesy of Patently Apple.
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