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Tony Robbins CIPA Lawsuit

CIPA Lawsuit Against Tony Robbins Company

Tony Robbins CIPA LawsuitA CIPA lawsuit against the Tony Robbins Company was recently filed in a California superior court. The self-help business has been accused of secretly wiretapping the communications of website users in violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act, or CIPA. Beyond that, the company has been accused of allowing third parties to use digital surveillance tools to monitor user behavior and eavesdrop on visitor conversations without express or implied consent, which is also a violation of state consumer privacy laws.

To learn more about the class action complaint against the Tony Robbins Company, keep reading.

Class Action Complaint Against Robbins Research International

The defendant in the invasion of privacy case is Robbins Research International, Inc., which operates www.tonyrobbins.com. This is the official website of Tony Robbins, a celebrity self-help guru. Consumers in California and elsewhere access the website to purchase books, programs, and tickets to events on how to master all aspects of their lives.

The case, Haviland v. Robbins Research International, Inc., is being heard in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The class action complaint alleges violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), including illegally wiretapping internet communications, as well as aiding, abetting, and paying third parties to eavesdrop on internet conversations.

Illegal Wiretapping

The defendant has been accused of surreptitiously implanting code the Tony Robbins website that allows for the unauthorized recording of private conversations. The civil suit also alleges that the website code allows for the creation of transcripts of these conversations with site visitors. Both acts are violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), which requires companies to obtain permission from customers before recording online conversations.

Due to the nature of the defendant’s business, customers who use the Tony Robbins website often disclose sensitive personal information via the website chat feature. This information goes beyond mere “record information” like the user’s name and address; it includes confidential information such as the user’s IP address, geolocation information, browsing history, and search history. The data collected by the defendant could enable the creation of detailed profiles about individuals for the purpose of delivering targeted advertisements specifically tailored to their personal interests. Significantly, the data collected from customers who use the website chat feature is allegedly harvested without consent.

Tony Robbins Company Accused of Sharing Customer Data with Third Parties

One of the major allegations in the civil suit against Robbins Research International is that the company allows a third party to collect a bevy of personal information from website visitors without their consent or knowledge. According to the complaint, the Tony Robbins company has entered into financial agreements with a third-party company, UserWay, to embed code into the website’s chat function. This code allegedly enables UserWay to covertly intercept and monitor the chat conversations in real time without the knowledge or consent of site visitors. In other words, the chats that users believe are taking place on the Tony Robbins website are actually occurring on UserWay.

According to the lawsuit, the company’s website privacy policy never discloses to users that the company can share and sell site visitors’ personal information to third parties. The unauthorized sharing of users’ personal information with third parties is a clear violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA). Moreover, the defendant’s alleged behavior is particularly egregious because website users have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they use a seemingly harmless chat box feature on www.tonyrobbins.com.

Customer Data Exposed

The defendant’s actions leave consumers exposed to significant privacy risks because their personal information is allegedly shared with a wide range of entities – and without any clear limitations or safeguards on how that personal information may be used.

Additionally, the lawsuit raises serious concerns about whether this digital privacy violation could further compromise the privacy and control of users’ information by opening the door for the dissemination of personal data to other entities for cross-context behavioral advertising purposes. This kind of invasive practice could subject users to relentless advertising campaigns across multiple platforms – without their consent or knowledge.

How Companies Violate the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA)

The California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) explicitly prohibits both wiretapping and eavesdropping of electronic communications unless all parties to the communication have first provided consent. Most website operators comply with these legal requirements by conspicuously warning visitors if their conversations will be recorded or if any third parties will be eavesdropping on them.

The invasion of privacy law is written in terms of wiretapping, with language barring companies from using a “machine, instrument, or contrivance” to illegally record and eavesdrop on conversations. But it is important to note that courts have found that Cal. Penal Code § 631(a) applies to internet communications. This means that any company that attempts to learn the contents of a website communication without the consent of all parties can be sued for violating the law.

The specific part of the digital privacy statute that Robbins Research International has been accused of violating is Section 631(a), which imposes liability on companies that invade the privacy of consumers. Section 631 is technically a criminal statute, but it does provide a mechanism for victims to bring a civil lawsuit and recover monetary damages.

Call the Los Angles Consumer Protection Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

The consumer protection lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP are representing California residents in a class action lawsuit against Robbins Research International. If you visited the Tony Robbins website and used the chat feature, you may be eligible to join the class action complaint. Call 310-590-3927 or email us today to schedule a free consultation.

CPRA Employee Privacy Rights

Employee Privacy Rights Under the CPRA

CPRA Employee Privacy Rights

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) is a consumer protection law that was approved by California voters in 2020. The CPRA placed significant restrictions on how companies may collect, store, use and share consumer data. In addition to protecting consumers, the CPRA also established a number of data privacy rights for employees of companies that operate in California. Employee privacy rights under the CPRA are robust: workers whose personal data is collected by their employers can take legal action when that data is misused.

To learn more about how the CPRA safeguards employee privacy rights, keep reading this blog.

CPRA Requirement: Notification and Disclosures to Employees

Under the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), employees of qualifying businesses have the right to be notified by their employers when their personal data is being collected for any reason. Additionally, employers must notify workers about why their personal data is being collected. If your employer has collected your personal information and failed to notify you in advance so that you could provide consent, then they may be in violation of California data privacy laws.

Additionally, the CPRA mandates that employees must be given very specific details about what type of personal information is being collected by their employers. Previous consumer privacy laws broadly protected employees by compelling companies to disclose certain aspects of their data collection procedures. Now, companies must specifically disclose to all employees the precise category of personal information that has been collected in the previous 12 months.

CPRA Gives Employees the Right to Correct Inaccurate Information

Just like consumers, employees also have the right to correct or delete inaccurate information that has been collected. Similarly, employees can opt out of any plans by the company to share their personal information with others. If an employee makes this kind of request, the company has 45 days to honor it.

CPRA Requirement: Businesses Must Maintain an Employee Privacy Policy

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) also strengthened existing data protection laws that require companies to maintain an employee privacy policy explaining the company’s rules and policies about personal data collection. Under the CPRA, employers must not only have a written employee privacy policy, but the policy also needs to be posted so that it is easily accessible by workers.

Additionally, the employee privacy policy must detail exactly what the collected information will be used for, including whether the data will be sold to third parties or shared with third parties.

The CPRA Protects Employees Against Retaliation

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) intersects with California employment law, which means that employees who exercise their digital privacy rights under the consumer privacy statute are protected against retaliation by their employers.

The California Privacy Rights Act Also Protects Consumers

While the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) provides explicit protections for employees, the statute’s primary purpose is to ensure that consumer data remains confidential after it has been shared with businesses. One of the main ideas behind the CPRA is that individuals should have control over how their sensitive personal information is used by companies. When a company violates the privacy of customers, or otherwise fails to take reasonable steps to ensure that customer data remains confidential, that company should be held accountable.

The CPRA officially expanded the scope and protections of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which already protected consumers against invasions of privacy involving their personal information. The CPRA gives consumers new privacy rights that did not exist under previous consumer privacy laws. These new consumer rights include the ability to correct inaccurate information being retained by companies. More generally, the CPRA ensures that consumers have a legal right to limit how their sensitive personal data is collected, used, and disclosed.

Contact the Los Angeles Employment Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Did your employer monitor your emails, record your phone conversations, or collect your personal information in any other way? California strictly regulates how companies can collect and/or share the information of their workers. The Los Angeles employment lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP possess an in-depth understanding of both employment laws and privacy laws, and we are passionate about protecting employee rights.

Call 310-590-3927 or email us today to discuss your case.

CPRA Consumer Rights

Consumer Rights Protected by the CPRA

CPRA Consumer Rights

When the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) was approved by California voters in the 2020 election, it greatly expanded the privacy protections afforded to consumers. The new law also increased the data security obligations of companies operating in the state. The consumer rights protected by the CPRA are important because they address the kind of digital privacy concerns that are prevalent at a time when businesses have access to an unprecedented amount of personal information about customers. When a company violates the CPRA by failing to protect consumer data, they may be subject to substantial fines and exposed to civil liability.

To learn more about how the California Privacy Rights Act protects consumer privacy rights, keep reading.

What Consumer Privacy Rights Are Protected by the CPRA?

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) was intended to strengthen consumer privacy laws already in effect, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The idea was to protect California residents against invasions of privacy and data breaches when making purchases from businesses or when communicating with businesses online. The statute does this by strengthening consumer rights that existed under the CCPA and by creating new rights that did not previously exist.

These are the existing consumer rights that the CPRA strengthened:

  1. The right to know about any personal data that has been collected by companies.
  2. The right to delete any personal data that has been collected.
  3. The right to opt out of the sale or sharing of personal data with third parties.
  4. The right to be free from discrimination or retaliation for having exercised any of these consumer rights.
  5. The right to bring a private civil action against companies that fail to protect consumers’ personal information against unauthorized access or data breaches.

Additionally, the CPRA created two (2) entirely new consumer privacy rights:

  1. The right to correct personal information that is inaccurate.
  2. The right to limit how “sensitive personal information” is collected, used, and disclosed.

Consumer Right to Correct Inaccurate Personal Data

Under the CPRA, consumers now have the right to request that a business correct any collected information that is inaccurate. Moreover, this right must be disclosed to consumers in a company or website privacy notice. After a consumer has requested that certain information be corrected, the company must use “commercially reasonable efforts” to make the correction.

Consumer Right to Opt Out of Sharing Personal Data

Data privacy was a major focus of lawmakers when the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was enacted, but the statute may not have gone far enough. While the CCPA gives consumers the right to opt out of the sale of their personal information to third parties, the CPRA gives consumers the same right with respect to the sharing of personal information. Significantly, this consumer privacy right may be exercised regardless of whether the data is being shared for a monetary benefit.

It should also be noted that the data privacy law requires businesses to inform consumers of this right directly on the company website’s homepage. The business must include a conspicuous link with the title “Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information,” which the consumer can click on to exercise their opt-out right.

New Obligations for Businesses Under the California Privacy Rights Act

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) also increased requirements on businesses to protect the sensitive personal information of consumers against data breaches or other invasions of privacy. For example, businesses are now prohibited from maintaining customers’ personal data for any longer than absolutely necessary.

The CPRA also increased the penalties that companies can face for consumer privacy violations. The statutory fines start at $2,000 for each violation, and they can go as high as $7,500 for a willful violation. Beyond that, the maximum fines can be tripled when the violation involves a child under the age of 16. If a company wants to collect the personal data of consumers under 16 years of age, the young consumer must expressly consent to it. If the consumer is under the age of 13, a parent or guardian must first provide permission before a company can collect personal data.

Additionally, civil penalties may be imposed when the violation involves the theft of customer login information. This means that businesses that expose customer data to a data breach are subject to a lawsuit with significant damages.

Tauler Smith LLP Protects Consumer Privacy Rights in California. Call Us Today.

California law places clear limits on how businesses may use customer information collected during a transaction or website visit. The Los Angeles consumer privacy attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP understand the law and how it protects consumers against unlawful invasion of privacy. We represent plaintiffs in both individual lawsuits and class action lawsuits when a company illegally monitors, collects, shares, or sells a customer’s personal data without permission.

Call 310-590-3927 or send an email to talk to one of our skilled attorneys and explore your legal options.

California Privacy Protection Agency

California Privacy Protection Agency

California Privacy Protection Agency

The California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA) is a new state agency tasked with enforcing consumer privacy laws, including the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). The CPRA explicitly protects individuals’ data privacy rights by both strengthening existing laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and creating new consumer rights. For example, the CPRA gives consumers the right to correct personal information that is inaccurate, or even to request deletion of the data. The CPRA also requires companies to safeguard customers’ personal information against data breaches. These statutory requirements are strictly regulated and enforced by the CPPA: when a company violates the statute, the CPPA may impose substantial fines.

To learn more about the California Privacy Protection Agency, continue reading.

What Is the California Privacy Protection Agency?

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) amended the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which provides explicit protections for California residents who share personal information with businesses. Prior to the CPRA becoming law, the California attorney general had rulemaking and enforcement authority with respect to consumer privacy regulations. After the CPRA passed, the California Privacy Protection Agency became the main state agency with authority to enforce these laws.

The California Privacy Protection Agency has a board comprised of five (5) members. The California Governor appoints two board members, including the Chair. Each of the three remaining board seats are appointed by the Attorney General, the Senate Rules Committee, and the Speaker of the Assembly. Each board member will serve in their position for up to eight (8) years before being replaced.

The California Privacy Protection Agency Enforces the CPRA

The main task of the California Privacy Protection Agency is to enforce the state’s consumer privacy laws. If the agency determines that a company has violated the CPRA or another consumer privacy law, they can enforce the statute and impose monetary penalties. Businesses that do not comply with the strict regulations of the CPRA will be subject to severe penalties: a $2,000 fine for each violation, a $2,500 fine when the violation is negligent, and a $7,500 fine when the violation is willful.

The CPRA also allows the state to impose enhanced penalties when digital privacy violations involve minors. If a company unlawfully sells or shares the personal information of a child under the age of 16, they may be fined another $7,500 for each violation. Importantly, the statute imposes strict liability in these instances. This means that the penalties may be imposed regardless of whether the offending company had actual knowledge of the child’s age. The CPRA penalties for consumer privacy violations involving a minor may be imposed on top of any penalties that may apply for violations of the Children’s Only Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Consumers May File Civil Suits for Data Privacy Breaches

Data security is a major focus of California’s consumer privacy laws. In cases involving a data breach that exposed a customer’s personal information, the CCPA and the CPRA give victims a private right of action. This means that you may be able to bring a civil lawsuit against the offending company and seek statutory damages. The CPRA states that consumers are eligible to pursue up to $750 for each privacy violation, or they may pursue actual damages – whichever amount is greater.

Call the Los Angeles Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

The California Privacy Protection Agency is tasked with enforcing the CPRA, which means that companies that violate the statute can be fined. But victims of an invasion of privacy – such as a data breach that exposed their personal information – can also take legal action by bringing a CPRA claim in state court. The experienced Los Angeles consumer privacy lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP are ready to represent you in a civil suit because we routinely assist plaintiffs in consumer protection lawsuits throughout California.

Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free initial consultation.

CPRA vs CCPA

Differences Between CPRA and CCPA

CPRA vs CCPA

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) passed as a ballot initiative in the 2020 general election. The new consumer privacy law is actually an amendment of an earlier law: the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The major differences between the CPRA and the CCPA involve the level of protection afforded to consumers. The CCPA established a baseline for protecting consumer privacy rights, while the CPRA significantly expands on those protections by giving consumers additional rights. The CPRA also imposes additional obligations on companies that do business in California.

To learn more about the differences between the CPRA and the CCPA, keep reading this blog.

California Laws That Protect Consumer Privacy

The two main California laws that protect consumers against invasion of privacy are the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). The CPRA amended the CCPA.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was passed by state lawmakers in 2018. It was the first state privacy law that addressed the collection of consumer data, as well as the first law to directly confront digital privacy concerns. After the CCPA went into effect, businesses could no longer monitor customer communications and use the data without authorization. Additionally, California consumers now had some control over whether their personal information was collected by companies and, if so, how it could be used.

California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA)

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) applies to any company that solicits customers in California and collects their personal information. The data privacy law gives consumers more control over their personal data by placing restrictions on how businesses can use customer information. When a consumer shares personal information with a business, there are limits on what the business may do with that data.

What Are the Differences Between the CPRA and the CCPA?

There are a number of differences between the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CPRA created new rights for consumers and imposed stricter requirements on businesses that collect customer data. Additionally, the CPRA created a new state agency to enforce consumer privacy laws.

New Consumer Privacy Rights

The CCPA was enacted to protect customer privacy, and those protections were broadened in the CPRA so that additional types of personal information are also protected by law. This includes usernames, email addresses, passwords, and security questions. If a company fails to protect against breaches or unauthorized disclosures of this information, they may be subject to liability under the new statute.

One specific example of the additional rights that the CPRA provides to consumers is the ability to opt out of cross-context behavioral advertising. This is defined as targeted advertising that is based on the personal information collected when consumers visit certain websites or use online platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc. The CPRA explicitly states that companies must allow consumers to opt out when personal data is shared with other companies for the purpose of cross-contextual advertising.

Restrictions on Businesses

The CPRA established broad privacy requirements for businesses, including an obligation for businesses to only collect and use personal information when it is reasonably necessary and proportionate to their stated purposes for collecting or using the information in the first place. Moreover, the CPRA requires companies to specify exactly how long they plan to retain personal data collected from consumers.

California Privacy Protection Agency

The CPRA established the framework for a new state enforcement agency: the California Privacy Protection Agency. This agency is responsible for enforcing not just the CPRA, but all of California’s consumer privacy laws and regulations. Prior to passage of the CPRA, enforcement of those laws was left up to the California Attorney General.

Contact the California Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

If you visited a website and shared your personal information with the company or website operator, it’s possible that your data was exposed. The Los Angeles consumer protection lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you take legal action under the California Privacy Rights Act and receive financial compensation. We regularly represent plaintiffs in both state and federal courts. To find out if you might be eligible to bring a CPRA claim, call 310-590-3927 or email us today.

California Privacy Rights Act

California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA)

California Privacy Rights ActConsumer protection has been of paramount importance to both lawmakers and residents in California for a long time, resulting in extremely strong laws that limit what companies can do with customer data and personal information. One of these laws addressing digital privacy concerns is the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), a new consumer privacy law that recently went into effect. The data protection law was passed by California residents through a referendum on the ballot in the 2020 general election. The CPRA was intended to be the most comprehensive consumer privacy legislation in the United States. Along with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the CPRA set the standard for government protection of data privacy rights.

To learn more about the California Privacy Rights Act and how it affects both consumers and businesses, keep reading.

Who Does the CPRA Apply to?

Any for-profit company that does business in the state of California and that has significant gross annual revenues is subject to the regulations of the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). Additionally, if a company solicits customers in California and collects their personal information at any point, the company may be required to comply with the statute.

The CPRA can also apply to third parties that have been given access to a consumer’s personal data. If a company shared your information with a third party and you subsequently requested that the information be corrected or deleted, the company must pass on the request to the third party. The same is true for service providers and contractors: a company that shares customers’ personal information with these individuals and/or entities must instruct them about the CPRA requirements, and any violations by these other parties could expose the company to liability.

Additionally, the CPRA doesn’t apply only to consumers. CPRA protections also apply to employees who work for companies that monitor and use their data.

What Is the California Privacy Rights Act?

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was the first state privacy law. The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) amended the CCPA and made California’s privacy laws even more consumer friendly. At the same time, the CPRA also strengthened existing protections for consumers by requiring businesses to comply with much stricter consumer privacy regulations.

New Obligations for Businesses Under the CPRA

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) imposed further obligations on companies that do business in California and collect personal information from customers. For example, the CPRA created new compliance rules for businesses. This includes the elimination of a previous rule that gave companies 30 days to “cure” any violations of the CCPA. Now, any company that violates the CPRA is subject to monetary penalties under the statute.

Additionally, under the CPRA, companies must take affirmative steps to protect customers’ personal information against data breaches. This means that companies must implement reasonable security measures to ensure that personal data is not illegally accessed by others.

Businesses are also required to perform annual cybersecurity audits to confirm that no breaches have occurred. Businesses must submit the results of these audits to the California Privacy Protection Agency, in addition to conducting regular risk assessments that weigh the benefits of collecting consumer information against the security risks.

CPRA Created New Consumer Privacy Rights

The CPRA formally created a number of new privacy rights for California consumers, including the following:

  • Consumers can opt out of sharing their personal information with businesses.
  • Consumers can opt out of allowing businesses to use their “sensitive personal information.” This includes the customer’s Social Security number, driver’s license, state ID card, passport, credit card or debit card, bank account, geolocation data, and emails or text messages. It can also include information about the customer’s racial or ethnic origin, religion, genetic data, health data, and sexual orientation.
  • Consumers have the right to correct any personal data that is inaccurate. This means that businesses must provide customers with a means to review and then correct wrong information.
  • Consumers can legally access information about how the company is storing and using their data, as well as the data retention period.

What Types of Data Are Protected by the CPRA?

Basically, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) protects any information that could be used to identify an individual. This includes things like the person’s name, email address, Social Security number, driver’s license number, state ID card, passport number, bank account or other financial account numbers, credit card or debit card numbers, and physical address.

When a company collects this type of information from a consumer, the consumer has a legal right to be notified. Moreover, once notified, the consumer has the legal right to demand that the information be corrected or deleted.

Sensitive Personal Information Protected by the CPRA

Data security is paramount in an age when information can be misused so easily. That’s why the CPRA places even stricter requirements on companies that collect consumer data deemed to be “sensitive personal information.”

What Is “Sensitive Personal Information”?

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) defines a consumer’s “sensitive personal information” as including any of the following:

  • Social Security number, driver’s licenses, state ID card, or passport.
  • Website or app log-in information.
  • Bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards.
  • Geolocation data that identifies the consumer’s location.
  • Race, ethnicity, or religion.
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Email or text messages.
  • Genetic data.

The CPRA can also be updated by lawmakers in the future to add more categories that would qualify for protection as sensitive personal information. This definitional flexibility is codified in the statute to “address changes in technology, data collection practices, obstacles to implementation, and privacy concerns.”

How Sensitive Personal Information May Be Used

The CPRA places limitations on how businesses may use customers’ sensitive personal information. A business can only use this type of information to the extent necessary to perform services or provide goods reasonably expected by the consumer. Any use beyond this scope violates the statute.

Disclosures About Sensitive Personal Information

The statute stipulates that businesses must provide clear disclosures about the fact that they are collecting this type of information, as well as disclosures about how the information will be used. For example, a business should create a link on its company website that informs consumers of the collection practices and that gives them the ability to opt out of the collection and/or sharing of their data.

The California Privacy Protection Agency Is Tasked with Enforcing the CPRA

Section 24 of the CPRA created the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA), a state agency that implements and enforces the consumer privacy law. The CPPA receives reports of privacy law violations and then conducts investigations to determine whether companies should be penalized under the statute.

The CPPA is not the only state agency that oversees and enforces the CPRA. The California Department of Justice is also heavily involved in enforcing the law and ensuring that consumer privacy rights are protected.

What Are the Penalties for Violations of the CPRA?

The CPRA imposed substantial monetary penalties for noncompliance by companies. These penalties include a fine of $2,000 for each violation.

The penalties may be increased in certain circumstances:

  • $2,500 for each negligent violation of the statute.
  • $7,500 for each willful violation of the statute.

Civil Suits Filed Under the CPRA

The original consumer privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), gave consumers whose personal data was compromised a private right of action to bring a civil suit against the company that failed to prevent the data breach and protect consumers against invasions of privacy. But there were limitations on what exactly qualified as a “data breach” under the old statute. Under the new customer privacy regulations of the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), the types of data breaches that may expose a company to civil liability are greatly expanded: if a business fails to protect customer information such as an email address, username, password, or security question, the business could be sued by the victim.

Contact the Los Angeles Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Are you a California resident? Did you visit a website that collected your personal information without authorization? Was your personal information exposed in a data breach? You may be eligible to recover statutory damages under the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). The experienced Los Angeles consumer protection attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can help you file a complaint with the CPRA and possibly file a civil lawsuit for financial compensation.

Call us today at 310-590-3927 or send an email to schedule a free consultation.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance CIPA Lawsuit

CIPA Lawsuit Against Nationwide Mutual Insurance

Nationwide Mutual Insurance CIPA Lawsuit

A CIPA lawsuit was recently filed against Nationwide Mutual Insurance for illegal wiretapping and invasion of privacy, and now a federal judge in California has ruled that the case can proceed to trial. The U.S. District Court judge issued the ruling in response to a motion to dismiss the wiretapping claims under Section 631 of CIPA, or the California Invasion of Privacy Act. The civil suit alleges that Nationwide Mutual unlawfully allows a third party to eavesdrop on customer conversations on the insurance company’s website. Chat communications are allegedly monitored in real time, and the sensitive personal data from those conversations is allegedly stored and used for financial gain. These actions would constitute clear violations of California consumer privacy laws.

These days, it is common for many different types of businesses to violate the CIPA and other invasion of privacy laws. If you live in California and used the chat feature on a company’s website, you may be eligible to join a class action lawsuit for invasion of privacy. The Los Angeles consumer protection lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you get financial compensation.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Sued for Invasion of Privacy

The defendant in the recent invasion of privacy case is Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., which is a corporation that offers insurance, retirement, investing, and other financial services and products to consumers in the United States, including residents of California. Nationwide operates a website: www.nationwide.com. The website has a chat feature, which customers can use to have online conversations with Nationwide. Sometimes, the customers who use the chat feature may share sensitive personal data with the company.

Third-Party Wiretapping of Customer Conversations

Nationwide Mutual Insurance has been accused of using a third-party company, Akamai or Kustomer, to embed code into the Nationwide website, which allows the third-party company to monitor and store transcripts of the conversations that occur through the chat feature. Akamai specializes in harvesting data from consumer conversations, which is believed to be the reason that Nationwide contracted with them in the first place.

Significantly, Nationwide does not inform customers who use the chat feature on the website that monitoring of conversations, storing of transcripts, or data harvesting occurs. Beyond that, Nationwide does not obtain customers’ consent for any of these activities.

Federal Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Wiretapping Lawsuit Against Nationwide Mutual Insurance

The plaintiff in the consumer data privacy case is a California resident who used a smartphone to visit the Nationwide Mutual Insurance website and to communicate with Nationwide via the company’s website chat program. She filed her original legal complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and the case was later removed to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Once the case arrived in federal court, Nationwide filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The U.S. District Court recently held a hearing on the motion to dismiss. Although the Section 632.7 CIPA complaint was dismissed, the court ruled that the Section 631 CIPA complaint could move forward to trial. The court found that the plaintiff had stated a valid claim under § 631 of the CIPA because she plausibly alleged that Nationwide aided third-party Akamai in violating the consumer privacy statute.

What Are California’s Data Privacy Laws?

On top of having extremely strong consumer protection laws, California also has some of the strongest digital privacy laws in the country. The three most prominent statutes are the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). All of these data protection laws impose civil liability on companies that invade the privacy of customers. The CIPA imposes a requirement on businesses to obtain permission from customers before recording telephone and internet communications, including online chat conversations. The CCPA specifically prohibits businesses from sharing the personal information of customers with third parties, while the CPRA amended the law to increase the penalties for violating consumer privacy.

What Conduct Is Prohibited by the California Invasion of Privacy Act?

Although Section 631 of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) is technically a criminal statute with criminal penalties, the Penal Code authorizes civil liability for violations of the law. This means that consumers whose confidentiality was invaded by a company doing business in California can potentially bring a civil lawsuit for monetary damages.

California courts ruling on CIPA claims have interpreted Section 631 to prohibit three types of conduct:

  1. Intentional wiretapping.
  2. Attempting to learn the contents of a communication in transit over a wire.
  3. Attempting to use information obtained as a result of wiretapping or monitoring of communications.

Additional requirements or elements of a CIPA violation include that the intentional wiretapping was done while the communication was in transit and that the communication was being sent from or received at a location within California. The prohibited conduct includes reading the contents of any message, report, or communication without the consent of all parties to that message, report, or communication. If one of the parties did not know that the chat or other type of communication was being monitored and/or wiretapped, then it would not be possible for them to provide consent or authorization. The bottom line is that eavesdropping on a conversation is a clear violation of Section 631 of the CIPA.

“Aiding” a Violation of the CIPA

Section 631 of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) also imposes liability on any company that “aids” or assists another in violating the statute. The plaintiff in this case alleges that Nationwide Mutual Insurance “aided, abetted, and even paid third parties to eavesdrop” on her conversations. Moreover, she alleges that these privacy breaches happened not only with her communications, but also with other consumers’ communications on the Nationwide website.

Party Exception to § 631

There is a “party exception” to Section 631 of the CIPA. Courts have found that a party to a conversation cannot be liable for “eavesdropping” on that conversation. But this gets complicated when the conversation involves a third party. For example, if computer code on a website automatically directs a communication to a third party, the party exception won’t shield the third party from civil liability under the CIPA.

U.S. District Court: Nationwide Mutual Insurance May Have Violated California Invasion of Privacy Law

The plaintiff in the Nationwide Mutual Insurance data privacy case alleged that Nationwide violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) pursuant to California Penal Code § 631. Now, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has found that the plaintiff plausibly alleged that Akamai read the contents of her messages, which would constitute a violation of Section 631 by Nationwide for “aiding” in the wiretapping offense. Moreover, the court agreed that it is conceivable that Nationwide hired Akamai specifically to intercept messages and use them for Nationwide’s financial benefit. This would constitute “aiding” the illegal wiretapping by Akamai, which would lead to Nationwide itself being liable for violating the CIPA.

One theory put forward in the case is that Nationwide paid Akamai to “embed code” into the website that “enables Akamai to secretly intercept in real time, eavesdrop upon, and store transcripts” of messages sent via the website chat feature. In fact, it has been alleged that Akamai’s business model is to harvest data from transcripts of communications. Significantly, the federal court said that one inference from the plaintiff’s legal claim is that the personal information being harvested goes beyond mere “record information” like the consumer’s name, address, and subscriber number.

Akamai has been accused of intercepting customers’ messages as they are sent and received on the Nationwide website. The court found that these allegations are “plausible” based on Akamai’s public statements about their conduct. Additionally, the court said that the plaintiff clearly alleged that neither Akamai nor Nationwide Mutual Insurance had her consent to harvest personal data from communications on the Nationwide website.

Contact the California Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Anyone who used the chat feature on a company’s website may have been the victim of illegal wiretapping and privacy violations. If you are a California resident who visited a website, the Tauler Smith LLP legal team can help you. Contact our Los Angeles consumer fraud and false advertising attorneys today. You can call 310-590-3927 or email us.

Website Wiretapping & CIPA

California Invasion of Privacy Act & Website Wiretapping

Website Wiretapping & CIPA

It is important for consumers who interact with businesses online to have a solid understanding of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) and website wiretapping. When you have a conversation with someone on the phone or via the computer, there is usually a reasonable expectation that the conversation will remain between the two parties. But what happens when what you believed to be a private conversation was actually being wiretapped, surveilled, and/or recorded by the other party? If this happens in the context of a business transaction, sales call, or online chat, your information could be sold to other companies that profit from the data. This has become a very serious problem in the internet era when personal data can be transmitted and circulated at a rapid pace. It’s one reason that California consumer privacy laws like the CIPA have become so important as tools to protect consumers against unethical business practices.

To learn more about the consumer protections against website wiretapping afforded by the California Invasion of Privacy Act, keep reading this blog.

What Is Website Wiretapping?

Wiretapping is a term used to describe the act of connecting a listening or recording device to a telephone. Website wiretapping occurs when the chat communications on a website are unlawfully recorded, transcribed, or surveilled without permission. These days, wiretapping technology is commonly used to secretly record conversations on websites that were supposed to remain private. Some of the reasons that people might illegally wiretap a website chat include gaining information about a business competitor, learning the details of an opponent’s lawsuit, or acquiring valuable data about a customer that can be sold to others.

Illegal wiretaps are not just against the law; they can also cause significant harm to victims. That’s why California allows individuals to file civil lawsuits against anyone who records their online conversation without consent.

California’s Law on Website Wiretapping: Section 631 of the CIPA

California has a number of very strong consumer protection laws that prohibit companies from jeopardizing the digital privacy and security of customers. Any company that does business in California needs to be completely transparent in their data collection practices, which includes obtaining proper consent from customers and website visitors before any personal information is shared online.

For example, California courts have held that it is a violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) for companies to wiretap user chats and other communications on websites. It is specifically a violation of § 631(a) of the CIPA when the intercepted communications contain what might be considered more sensitive than “record information” such as the user’s name, address, email, etc.

Additionally, Section 631 of the CIPA gives consumers a legal right to know when their phone conversation is being recorded, or when their online chat conversation is being monitored and transcribed. That is why a lot of companies provide automated warnings at the beginning of calls to alert customers to the possibility that the call may be monitored or recorded, and privacy policies on websites that disclose the monitoring of website chat communications with session recording technology.

Wiretapping on Websites:

Customers have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they visit a company’s website and use the chat feature. Their privacy rights are violated when a company wiretaps the online conversations, and they are further violated when that company allows third-party entities to eavesdrop on the chat conversations.

In recent years, many companies doing business online have been accused of breaching the privacy of individuals who visit their websites. When those websites are accessible to customers in California, the companies may be violating California’s very robust consumer privacy laws. Companies violate the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) by illegally wiretapping the conversations of website visitors.

Winning a CIPA Claim for Illegal Wiretapping

The simple fact is that a lot of businesses fail to provide clear warnings about the nature of phone conversations, online chats, or other communications with customers. When a business secretly monitors or records a conversation, the customer whose privacy rights were violated by the illegal wiretapping may be able to take legal action by filing a CIPA claim.

One element of a successful CIPA claim that the plaintiff will need to prove is that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Generally, the content and circumstances of the conversation can be used to determine whether such an expectation existed. This is where the court will examine a number of case-specific factors, including:

  • The identity of the person who initiated the conversation.
  • The purpose of the communication.
  • The duration of the conversation.
  • Whether there were prior conversations between the parties.
  • The type of information that was communicated.
  • Whether the party recording the conversation provided a warning.

Section 632(c) of the CIPA clarifies that when the parties to a communication reasonably expect to be overheard or recorded, it does not qualify as a “confidential communication” under the law.

Civil Remedies Available to Consumers Under the CIPA

As mentioned above, the CIPA includes both civil and criminal penalties for companies that violate the statute by unlawfully accessing, maintaining, or sharing customer data. For consumers who have been victimized, the civil penalties can be a valuable tool to get some sort of justice. The CIPA allows consumers to file civil lawsuits in California state court to recover damages of up to $5,000 for each invasion of privacy violation. Additionally, in some cases, the court may order the defendant to pay treble damages that total three (3) times the economic harm suffered by the consumer.

Criminal Penalties for Wiretapping in California

Violations of the wiretapping law can also result in criminal penalties. On the criminal side, the CIPA gives courts the ability to impose penalties such as monetary fines and even jail time. A person charged with a crime for monitoring and recording a private communication could be sentenced to up to three (3) years in the county jail.

The decision about whether to bring criminal charges against a business or individual for breaching your privacy rights by recording a conversation will ultimately be made by prosecutors and other law enforcement authorities. If charges are filed against the defendant, the case will be heard in criminal court. A knowledgeable attorney can help victims start this process, as well as helping victims decide whether to file a civil lawsuit to recover money damages either before or after resolution of the criminal case.

Other Data Privacy Laws in California

Data privacy has been a major concern of California lawmakers for a while now, which is why the state has tended to lead the way with this kind of legislation. In fact, the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) is just one of the state’s extremely strong consumer fraud laws with a focus on data privacy. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) are two other laws that explicitly protect customers against companies that overreach when it comes to sharing personal data. In fact, both the CCPA and the CPRA require companies doing business in the state to give customers the right to opt out of the sharing of their data.

Contact the Los Angeles Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP to File a Website Wiretapping Claim

Too often, companies doing business online choose to deliberately disregard the privacy concerns of customers who use their websites. Instead, these companies prioritize financial gains over consumer privacy and personal well-being. If you visited one of these websites and shared any information via a chat feature, you may be able to get statutory damages under the wiretapping provision of the CIPA.

The Los Angeles consumer protection lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you file a website wiretapping claim. Call 310-590-3927 or email us to learn more.

Arlo Home Security Invasion of Privacy

Arlo Home Security System Sued for Invasion of Privacy

Arlo Home Security Invasion of Privacy

Arlo Home Security System is being sued for invasion of privacy. The consumer protection attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP recently filed the lawsuit on behalf of a California resident who used the company’s website: www.arlo.com/. Specifically, Arlo is accused of engaging in the unauthorized collection, storage, and sharing of the personal information of its customers. Arlo has also been accused of allowing a third-party company to secretly intercept and monitor the online chat conversations of website visitors without their knowledge or consent. Arlo’s actions are alleged as clear violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), which explicitly prohibits companies from engaging in behavior that violates certain privacy rights of customers.

We believe Arlo could be potentially violating other privacy rights of consumers based on our preliminary investigation. Keep reading this blog for more information.

Arlo Technologies Fails to Protect the Privacy Rights of Customers

Arlo is a home security company that sells doorbells and security cameras with wireless connections. Arlo Technologies, Inc. is the parent company that manufactures the wireless surveillance cameras and smart home security systems being marketed to consumers for both residential and small business use. Customers are able to use the Arlo.com website to purchase products, monitor their home security systems, and communicate with the company.

Arlo primarily manufactures and sells home security cameras, which means that it is absolutely imperative that the company complies with all applicable federal and California state laws and regulations concerning data privacy. Moreover, the nature of Arlo’s business of selling security cameras and recording devices means that the personal information being collected from customers is likely to be extremely sensitive. When Arlo fails to protect the privacy rights of customers, it exposes them to significant risks not just because the information shared typically goes beyond basic record information to include personally identifiable details, but also because users are able to transmit video files over the internet that make them vulnerable to serious abuses of their privacy.

Privacy Lawsuit Filed Against Arlo Home Security System in Los Angeles County Superior Court

The plaintiff in the current lawsuit against Arlo alleges that Arlo unlawfully collected data using a third-party service on its website. The lead attorney for the plaintiff is Betsy Tauler, a consumer protection attorney who focuses on privacy law. Tauler filed the lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Arlo’s Chatbox:

A major issue has been raised about the digital privacy of consumers who use Arlo’s website and share their private information. When the plaintiff in this case browsed the site, the complaint alleges, she interacted with a chatbox function that used a third party to collect information about her without her consent. Additionally, the home security system company allegedly utilizes the third-party chatbox on the website to unlawfully transmit and store user data. Arlo does this by covertly embedding code into its online chat function that sends the chat to a third party who collects data from the chat without the user’s knowledge. This type of commercial surveillance is illegal in California and violates the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA).

Arlo’s Privacy Policy:

Arlo has been accused of collecting data from many website visitors without providing any disclosures about how their private information is being used. Although the Arlo website has a privacy policy, the policy is easy to miss because it is not prominently displayed on the home page. In fact, the policy is buried deep within the website, making it difficult for users to read and understand its terms before they provide personal information when prompted to do so by the website chat bot. The complaint filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that Arlo’s failure to make sure that website visitors are aware of the terms of the privacy policy constitutes a deliberate attempt to mislead them.

Arlo Sued for Violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA)

The California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) prohibits companies from wiretapping and eavesdropping on the electronic communications of customers. The statute also specifically requires website operators to conspicuously warn visitors if their conversations are being recorded or if any third parties are eavesdropping on them.

The CIPA applies to conversations transmitted via a “cellular radio telephone” or a “landline telephone.” These categories have been found to include smartphones that enable web browsing, as well as desktop computers and laptop computers that utilize wi-fi. The plaintiff in this case accessed Arlo’s website using a smartphone.

Arlo Home Security System faces a civil suit for violating two sections of the California Invasion of Privacy Act:

  • Section 631
  • Section 632.7

§631 of the CIPA:

Section 631(a) of California’s Penal Code prohibits companies from using any machine, instrument, or contrivance to wiretap a conversation. The statute also forbids companies from reading the contents of any message or communication without the consent of all parties to the communication.

Section 631 applies not just to telephone conversations, but also to internet communications. This means that Arlo’s wiretapping of website chat communications would constitute a clear violation of the CIPA.

Additionally, Arlo allegedly embedded software on its website for the purpose of recording and eavesdropping on customer communications, which is also prohibited because this type of session recording software qualifies as a “machine, instrument, or contrivance” as defined by the statute.

§632.7 of the CIPA:

Arlo has also been accused of violating Section 632.7 of California’s Penal Code by intercepting and intentionally recording customer communications transmitted via telephone. The plaintiff in this case accessed Arlo’s website and used the chat feature with a smartphone, which qualifies as a sophisticated “cellular radio telephone” as defined by the law. Since the statute prohibits companies from recording telephony communications without the consent of all parties, Arlo’s actions would constitute a violation of Section 632.7.

According to the complaint, Arlo’s actions demonstrate that the company is more interested in profiting from its users’ personal information than it is in protecting users’ privacy rights.

Arlo Allegedly Surveils Customers

Arlo allegedly also allows ADA, a third-party company, to eavesdrop on customer conversations. ADA allegedly collects transcripts of these conversations and uses them for financial gain in unregulated dark data markets without any limitations. Additionally, ADA may be exposing Arlo customer data in international data transfers, which could involve foreign countries with different data protection laws.

Arlo allegedly pays substantial sums of money to ADA to embed code into the website chat feature. This is how ADA is able to allegedly intercept the chat communications in real time. The third-party company then eavesdrops on those conversations and stores transcripts. Website visitors have no way of knowing that this is being done. In fact, the complaint alleges that no one who uses the chatbox feature on the Arlo.com website is informed that they are being subjected to unlawful surveillance.

Do You Use Arlo for Home Security? Call the California Consumer Protection Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

Anyone within California who uses Arlo and believes they have been unlawfully collecting data may be eligible to file an invasion of privacy lawsuit to recover injunctive relief and statutory damages under the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) or other consumer protection laws.

The California consumer fraud lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP are representing plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Arlo Home Security System. For more information, call 310-590-3927 or send us an email.

Amazon Alexa and Ring Settlements

FTC Settlement: Amazon’s Alexa, Ring Security Cameras, and Privacy Laws

Amazon Alexa and Ring Settlements

Amazon recently reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), agreeing to pay $31 million in civil penalties for consumer privacy violations associated with the company’s Alexa voice assistant devices and Ring doorbell cameras. The DOJ alleged that Amazon engaged in a number of unreasonable privacy practices, ultimately resulting in an FTC settlement involving Amazon’s Alexa, Ring security cameras, and privacy laws.

The use of home security cameras and other internet-connected devices to spy on and illegally record customers has triggered several high-profile lawsuits, including a recent invasion of privacy claim against Arlo Home Security System in California. In the Amazon case, the tech behemoth was accused of violating federal laws by using Alexa voice devices and Ring doorbell cameras to unlawfully collect voice and video data, including data from children. The FTC and the DOJ said that Amazon illegally stored voice information, geolocation information, and video recordings without user permission. Moreover, the tech giant allegedly failed to delete kids’ Alexa recordings when those removals were requested by parents. The FTC and the DOJ filed complaints against Amazon in federal court, and now those cases have been settled: Amazon agreed to pay $25 million for its Alexa privacy violations that compromised children’s data and another $6 million for Ring privacy violations that exposed users to surveillance, threats, and harassment.

To learn more about the DOJ and FTC settlements reached with Amazon over the company’s Alexa voice service and home security cameras, keep reading this blog.

Federal Trade Commission Accuses Amazon of Invading Privacy of Alexa Users

The Amazon settlement resolved two separate claims filed against the tech company by the FTC:

  1. A claim that Amazon’s Alexa service was being used in violation of federal child privacy laws.
  2. A claim that the Ring doorbell cameras were being used to illegally spy on customers.

The FTC’s Alexa complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, and it alleged that Amazon violated both the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by deceiving parents about how data collected by the Alexa devices would be utilized. Specifically, the FTC alleged that Amazon unlawfully recorded children’s voices and maintained their geolocation data while telling parents that they could delete voice recordings and other data collected by the Alexa app.

What Is Amazon’s Alexa Service?

Amazon’s Alexa is a cloud-based voice assistant service that is used by millions of Americans. Alexa allows consumers to interact with technology designed to make their lives easier. For example, Alexa can be used to check the weather, learn the latest news developments, perform online searches for information, listen to music and audiobooks, play games, order products from Amazon.com, and stream content on smart TVs. Global sales of Alexa devices have topped more than half a billion, with use of the Alexa voice service increasing every year since it reached the market. This includes more than 800,000 children under the age of 13 who have their own Alexa profiles.

Alexa devices are made by both Amazon and third-party manufacturers, meaning that the technology is available on hundreds of millions of devices. Although Amazon’s marketing of its Alexa service and Echo devices claims that they are “designed to protect users’ privacy,” the fact that the Alexa mobile application is connected to the internet means that the data recorded by the device is accessible online and exposes users to scary breaches of their privacy.

Amazon Violations of the FTC Act

Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) prohibits companies from engaging in “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” Amazon was accused of committing multiple violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act:

  • Falsely representing that users of the Alexa app could delete their geolocation data upon request.
  • Falsely representing that Alexa users could delete voice recordings, including voice recordings of their children.
  • Unfair privacy practices that caused substantial injury to users of the Alexa service.

Amazon Violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal law that was passed by Congress in 1998, and it was intended to strengthen general privacy laws with specific protections for minors under the age of 13 who use the internet. The impetus for COPPA was a rise in websites that were secretly collecting the personal data of children. The COPPA Rule is codified in Section 1303(b) of COPPA, 15 U.S.C. § 6502(b), and Section 553 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 553. The COPPA Rule imposes strict requirements on the operators of commercial websites that target children: these websites must notify parents about the information collected. COPPA also requires website operators to give parents the option to delete their kids’ information at any time.

Although Amazon specifically promised Alexa users in a “Children’s Privacy Disclosure” that the company would delete their data upon request, the FTC alleged that Amazon continued to maintain children’s data long after such requests had been made. FTC consumer protection chief Samuel Levine observed that COPPA explicitly forbids companies “from keeping children’s data forever.”

Moreover, even in those instances when Amazon did erase the data, they reportedly retained written transcripts of the children’s recordings in a database that was accessible by employees. Amazon did not disclose to parents that the company was keeping the written transcripts and continuing to access them. FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya said that Amazon deceived parents about its data deletion practices by failing to comply with parental requests to erase children’s voice data collected by Alexa. This was a violation of federal laws meant to protect children against online threats and privacy invasions.

Amazon tried to justify its actions by saying that it kept children’s voice information to improve the company’s voice recognition algorithm, to help the company better respond to voice commands, and to give parents enough time to review the information. According to Amazon, the algorithm is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that learns and gains capabilities as it acquires more information. Artificial intelligence has become extremely controversial as an increasing number of tech companies have started to introduce AI products and applications into the marketplace. This is one reason that it was so important for the FTC to send a strong message to Amazon and others that using AI and other technologies to invade customer privacy will not be tolerated by the government. The Amazon Alexa settlement will bar the company from using children’s data to train the company’s algorithms.

Amazon Settles FTC Case Alleging Alexa Consumer Privacy Invasions

Samuel Levine, the FTC consumer protection chief, commented on the Amazon Alexa settlement and highlighted “Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests.” All of these actions violated the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and “sacrificed privacy for profits.”

The Alexa settlement with the FTC includes a number of provisions:

  • Amazon must pay a $25 million civil penalty.
  • Amazon can no longer use children’s geolocation data or voice information for the purpose of creating or improving company products.
  • Amazon must delete any inactive Alexa accounts belonging to children.
  • Amazon must notify all users about the FTC action against the company, as well as the settlement.
  • Amazon is prohibited from misrepresenting its privacy policies in the future, especially as they pertain to geolocation data, voice recordings, and children’s voice information.
  • Amazon must create and strictly enforce a privacy program related to geolocation data.

As part of the Amazon Alexa settlement, the company will have to implement privacy safeguards for child users. The company will also have to make significant changes to the way it stores Alexa data: there will be a requirement that Amazon delete certain information right away so that underage children won’t have their information exposed. Amazon has also agreed to delete child accounts that are inactive, as well as voice data and geolocation data from active accounts.

In the wake of the Alexa settlement, FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya warned companies “sprinting to do the same” thing as Amazon that they should think twice, especially if their products will be used by kids. Bedoya, who has two children of his own, said that “nothing is more visceral to a parent than the sound of their child’s voice.”

Department of Justice Files Complaint Against Amazon for Invading Privacy of Ring Home Security Camera Users

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t just protect children’s privacy; the agency is committed to protecting the privacy of all consumers. That’s why the FTC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) brought a second case against Amazon alleging that the tech giant violated federal law by allowing employees and contractors to access Ring doorbell cameras used by customers, with the access leading to illegal surveillance of the customers. Additionally, the FTC said that Ring did not take sufficient actions to stop hackers from accessing customer cameras.

Amazon Subsidiary Company Ring Sells Home Security Cameras

Ring is a subsidiary company of Amazon that primarily sells home security cameras, doorbells, and other accessories that are connected to the internet. Amazon has sold more than one million indoor cameras to customers in the United States and internationally. These cameras are typically used on the exterior entryways of a home, but they can also be used as indoor cameras to monitor private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms. It is these indoor cameras that were frequently targeted by Ring employees and hackers looking to spy on customers, with nearly 40% of all Ring devices that were compromised being either Stick Up Cams or Indoor Cams marketed primarily for indoor use.

Amazon bought Ring in 2018 for roughly $1 billion. Although most of the alleged privacy violations happened before Amazon acquired Ring, the parent company is still liable for any violations of federal law. Ring security cameras are marketed by Amazon as affordable cameras that can be attached to houses or, more commonly, to doors so that users can monitor entry into their homes. But while customers believed that they were securing their homes by using Ring cameras, they were actually exposing their homes to nefarious actors – many of whom were employed by Amazon.

DOJ Complaint Against Amazon for Ring Doorbell Cameras

The Justice Department filed its Ring complaint on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint alleged that Amazon violated Section 5 of the FTC Act in connection with the company’s Ring cameras.

Ring Security Cameras Illegally Accessed by Company Employees

According to the DOJ complaint, Ring home security cameras were accessed by company workers who subsequently spied on and harassed customers. In fact, the workers who gained access to the devices were also able to communicate directly with customers and threaten them. There were documented instances of female customers being cursed at in their bedrooms, children being subjected to racist slurs, and a number of Ring customers receiving death threats. These same individuals harassing and terrorizing Ring customers also used the cameras to set off false alarms and to change home security settings.

The Ring home security videos were reportedly available to every employee, and this was true for all customer videos over a period of several years. The complaint filed by the Department of Justice in federal court stated that Ring “gave every employee…full access to every customer video.” Beyond allowing unauthorized access, Ring’s lapses when it came to customer security also meant that company employees were able to download customer videos and then share those videos freely with anyone. The videos could be downloaded, saved, and even transferred by both Ring employees and contractors based out of Ukraine.

Ring Employees Spied on Customers

One Ring employee allegedly accessed and viewed thousands of recordings from Ring security videos being used by female customers. According to the FTC, this employee targeted 81 different women who were using the Ring Stick Up Cams. The employee’s criminal actions included focusing searches on Ring cameras with names suggesting that they had been placed in customer bedrooms or bathrooms. The illegal spying reportedly continued for months before Ring took any action at all to stop it.

Another Ring employee was accused of accessing a camera belonging to a female employee and subsequently spying on her by watching video recordings stored on her account.

These privacy beaches continued for months and, in many cases, years before Ring finally took action to limit what the FTC called “dangerously overbroad access” and impose any kind of technical or procedural restrictions on employees who were trying to access customers’ home security videos. Additionally, the FTC complaint stated that Ring did not obtain consent for human review of video recordings, and that the company “buried information in its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.” This meant that consumers had no way of knowing that Ring employees had access to their stored videos.

Ring Exposed Consumers to Cyberattacks by Hackers

Ring also had insufficient security measures to protect customer information against hacking, which led to some customer accounts being compromised via credential stuffing and brute force attacks. The FTC alleged that the doorbell company’s failure to fix “bugs in the system” allowed hackers to access customer cameras and, in some cases, to harass and frighten customers. This stemmed from “system vulnerabilities,” which Ring failed to repair despite knowing that the problems existed.

During one cyberattack committed against Ring, more than 55,000 U.S. customers had their Ring accounts compromised. Nearly 1,000 of these customer accounts had their stored videos unlawfully accessed, which included viewing, downloading, and sharing of recordings, livestream videos, and customer profiles.

Amazon Settles Ring Consumer Privacy Complaint

The Ring settlement with the DOJ and the FTC requires Amazon to pay $5.8 million. That money will be used to issue refunds to Ring customers who were affected by any privacy violations and data breaches. The settlement also requires Amazon to delete Ring data that had been stored since before Amazon acquired the company. Amazon must also implement new privacy and security measures to ensure that consumer data is not exposed or compromised, including multi-factor authentication before access is granted to customer accounts.

Both the Alexa settlement and the Ring settlement will need to be approved by federal judges before they take effect.

California Laws Protecting Consumers Against Invasion of Privacy: CIPA, CCPA, CLRA, and UCL

California’s consumer protection laws are among the strongest in the country, with the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), and the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL) providing robust protections against invasion of privacy, false advertising, and consumer fraud that go even further than federal laws like the FTC Act and COPPA. For example, companies that do business in California are not allowed to expose or share the sensitive personal information that you disclose when you use their products, services, or websites.

California’s digital privacy and consumer protection laws also explicitly prohibit companies from illegal wiretapping on websites, unauthorized recording of online chats, sharing the personal data of customers, false advertising that misleads consumers, and other deceptive business practices.

Contact the California Consumer Protection Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

Did you purchase or use a home security camera, doorbell camera, Alexa device, or any other internet-connected device? If so, your privacy may have been invaded in violation of both federal and California state laws. The experienced Los Angeles consumer protection lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you file a civil suit for invasion of privacy and get financial compensation. Call 310-590-3927 or email us today.