Healthcare staff accuse Alexa of probably recording protected information

In a category motion filed this week, healthcare staff alleged that their Alexa-enabled units could have recorded their conversations – together with probably protected info.  

A number of the plaintiffs, who embrace a substance abuse counselor and a healthcare customer support consultant, say they work with HIPAA-protected info; others say they’ve non-public conversations with sufferers.   

All 4 increase considerations that Alexa could have captured delicate info with out their intent.  

“Amazon’s conduct in surreptitiously recording customers has violated federal and state wiretapping, privateness, and client safety legal guidelines,” alleged the lawsuit, which was filed within the Western District of Washington federal court docket. Amazon didn’t reply to requests for remark.


The plaintiff’s complaints are two-fold: One, that customers could unintentionally awaken Amazon Alexa-enabled units, and two, that Amazon makes use of human intelligence and AI to take heed to, interpret and consider these information for its personal enterprise functions.   

“Regardless of Alexa’s in-built listening and recording functionalities, Amazon did not disclose that it makes, shops, analyzes, and makes use of recordings of those interactions on the time plaintiffs’ and putative class members’ bought their Alexa units,” learn the lawsuit.

The 4 plaintiffs, all of whom work within the healthcare business in some capability, say they both stopped utilizing Alexa units or bought newer fashions with a mute operate out of concern that their conversations could also be unintentionally recorded, saved and listened to.

The go well with cites research, comparable to one from Northeastern College, which have discovered sensible audio system are activated by non-“wake phrases.”  

For Amazon units, researchers discovered activations with sentences together with “I care about,” “I tousled,” and “I bought one thing,” in addition to “head coach,” “pickle” and “I am sorry.”  

A number of the activations, researchers discovered, had been lengthy sufficient to document probably delicate audio.

In 2019, Amazon introduced an “ongoing effort” to make sure that transcripts could be deleted from Alexa’s servers after prospects deleted voice recordings. Amazon executives additionally famous in 2020 that prospects can “choose out” of human annotation of transcribed knowledge and that they’ll routinely delete voice recordings older than three or 18 months.   

“By then, Amazon’s analysts could have already listened to the recordings earlier than that skill was enabled,” argues the lawsuit.  


Amazon has made inroads over the previous few years in relation to implementing voice-enabled options geared toward addressing medical wants.  

However some customers nonetheless specific skepticism about utilizing voice expertise and AI for well being points.  

And in December 2019, privateness organizations in the UK raised considerations a couple of deal that allowed Amazon to make use of NHS knowledge.  


“Plaintiffs anticipated [their] Alexa Machine to solely ‘hear’ when prompted by way of the ‘wake phrase,’ and didn’t count on that recordings could be intercepted, saved, or evaluated by Amazon,” learn the lawsuit.   

“Had Plaintiffs recognized that Amazon completely saved and listed [sic] to recordings made by its Alexa gadget, Plaintiffs would have both not bought the Alexa Machine or demanded to pay much less,” it continued.


Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT Information.
Twitter: @kjercich
E mail: [email protected]
Healthcare IT Information is a HIMSS Media publication.

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