Apple Must Face Claim That Siri Violates Privacy, Judge Says

(Bloomberg) — A federal judge allowed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. to proceed with a claim that its Siri voice assistant violates users’ privacy, but he dismissed part of the complaint under California’s Unfair Competition Law. 

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland on Thursday ruled that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged that their privacy was violated by “accidental activations” when the user neither intends nor expects Siri to be “listening” and recording voice conversations. But the judge said the suit did not show users suffered any economic harm, a necessary element of their claim under the UCL that Apple deceptively marketed the voice assistant.

White had dismissed the case in February, finding that the plaintiffs, in claiming privacy violations, hadn’t adequately alleged that their own communications had been intercepted by Siri. The judge gave the plaintiffs a chance to re-file their case, and he said Thursday they had sufficiently claimed their own privacy had been violated in their amended complaint. 

White tossed the UCL claim because he said plaintiffs had not shown that they purchased Apple products specifically based on representations that their privacy would be protected.

Consumers have brought similar complaints over Inc.’s Alexa and Google Assistant. The common complaint is that devices are listening even when users didn’t push a button or use a pre-set voice command to engage them, resulting in all manner of utterances and even intimate moments being captured in company databases.

The case is Lopez v. Apple Inc., 19-cv-04577, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

(Updates with more detail from ruling, background on case.)

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