Amazon continues to fight hard to send biometric privacy cases to arbitration

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A federal appellate court has affirmed that Amazon cannot impose arbitration on minors wanting to be part of proposed class-action litigation over alleged biometric privacy violations by the company.

Representatives for the children say California and Washington privacy laws were violated when Amazon’s voice-activated device Alexa collected their voices and generated biometric templates, according to a Law360 article. They say billions of voice recordings have been stored in a database without their consent.

They did not buy the electronics, according to the Ninth Circuit. Their parents did, so the children are not bound by the arbitration clause in Amazon’s “conditions of use” contract with buyers.

The parents and minors are considering class actions, according to Law360.

Last April, a U.S. district judge rejected Amazon’s position that children are basically extensions of parents in this case. The minors are separate, according to the judge, and did not have Amazon accounts. Nor did they enter into an agreement by purchasing a device.

Company executives appealed to the Ninth, which covers their Seattle headquarters and much of the western United States. They continue to claim the minors are third-party users bound by the purchasers’ devices.

Amazon (and an extensive list of other consumer-goods firms) fight to avoid litigation, which is riskier for the company than arbitration. The company has managed to get two-thirds of the potential biometrics privacy class actions filed against it over Alexa sent to arbitration. In February, a federal judge in Illinois agreed with Amazon, sending a pair of biometric privacy suits to arbitration.

Arbitration is a series of private meetings typically with less hostility. It typically is cheaper and faster than going before a judge. Usually, the decision is binding, with no further recourse.

And identity-management vendor Onfido is facing a situation similar to Amazon. The U.S. Seventh Circuit court of appeals has ruled that Onfido cannot force arbitration in a biometric data privacy suit filed against it based on its partners’ terms of service.

According to an editorial for Law.com by Blank Rome’s David Oberly, properly drafted arbitration clauses can avoid the pitfalls seen in a surge in class actions filed against technology firms under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

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