Soundhound, Inc. has collected and disclosed Illinois residents’ voiceprints without obtaining written consent to do so, a proposed class action claims.
The 13-page lawsuit alleges Soundhound, whose “Houndify” voice assistant is integrated into platforms such as Pandora’s music app, has violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), a law designed to govern private entities’ use of state residents’ unchangeable biometrics, such as voiceprints, fingerprints and facial geometries.
According to the complaint, Soundhound’s products and services “revolve around the integration of speech and voice recognition technology” and thus rely on voiceprint biometrics. The defendant’s Houndify voice assistant software adds a conversational interface to platforms such as Pandora, one of the largest music streaming services in the world, and powers the music app’s and other companies’ voice assistants, the case says. Pandora’s “voice mode” allows users to change stations, control volume, and personalize their music selections by speaking to the platform via a “wake word,” per the lawsuit. Upon hearing a wake word, Houndify will store a user’s unique voiceprint to enable it to quickly identify when the word is spoken and trigger the app to listen for further commands, the suit shares.
The case contends, however, that although Soundhound has collected Illinois residents’ voiceprints, it has not obtained proper written consent to do so or made publicly available a policy disclosing its collection, storage, deletion, retention and security practices regarding the biometric information in its possession.
Further, the suit alleges Soundhound has unlawfully profited from the biometric voiceprints it has obtained from Houndify voice assistant users, as the company was paid by third parties for use of the software.
The BIPA imposes upon private entities requirements that they inform the individual in writing that their biometric information is being collected or stored; provide notice in writing of the purpose and length of time for which their biometric information is being collected, stored and used; and receive a written release executed by the individual whose biometrics are being collected, the lawsuit explains.
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