Risk Update

Digital Assistants and Client Confidentiality — Privacy, Paranoia or Prudent Protection? (Okay Alexa, Call Google)

Some of us in two-party consent states watch the growing adoption of recording devices with interest, to say the least. (Is that Ring doorbell recording folks unknowingly the subject of a future class action? Who can say… But better not be having conversations on anyone’s doorsteps these days…) But what many are increasingly saying is that concerns about in-home assistants are worth a bit of risk review. Here’s the latest law firm perspective on that: “Locked-Down Lawyers Warned Alexa Is Hearing Confidential Calls” —

  • “As law firms urge attorneys to work from home during the global pandemic, their employees’ confidential phone calls with clients run the risk of being heard by Amazon.com Inc. and Google.”
  • “Mishcon de Reya LLP, the U.K. law firm that famously advised Princess Diana on her divorce and also does corporate law, issued advice to staff to mute or shut off listening devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s voice assistant when they talk about client matters at home, according to a partner at the firm. It suggested not to have any of the devices near their work space at all.”
  • “Mishcon’s warning covers any kind of visual or voice enabled device, like Amazon and Google’s speakers. But video products such as Ring, which is also owned by Amazon, and even baby monitors and closed-circuit TVs, are also a concern, said Mishcon de Reya partner Joe Hancock, who also heads the firm’s cybersecurity efforts.”
  • “Smart speakers, already notorious for activating in error, making unintended purchases or sending snippets of audio to Amazon or Google, have become a new source of risk for businesses.”
  • “Amazon and Google say their devices are designed to record and store audio only after they detect a word to wake them up. The companies say such instances are rare, but recent testing by Northeastern University and Imperial College London found that the devices can activate inadvertently between 1.5 and 19 times a day.”

Hey Siri, have any Outside Counsel Guidelines had any words about you yet?