The Concealed Cost of Convenience: Protecting Personal Data Privacy in the Age of AlexaLauren BassNote - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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The Concealed Cost of Convenience: Protecting Personal Data Privacy in the Age of Alexa
Lauren Bass

  The full text of this Note may be found here.

30 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 261 (2019).

Note by Lauren Bass*




n today’s interconnected, internet-dependent, global information economy, consumers willingly, but often unwittingly, divulge to tech companies their personal and private data—frequently with little regard for its safekeeping or intended future use.

Enter Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated, natural-language processing digital smart assistant. A sophisticated artificial intelligence (“AI”), Alexa insinuates itself into a user’s personal sphere, learns from and adapts to the surrounding environment, siphons personal information and data, and ultimately produces for the user a perfectly tailored, concierge experience. Convenience is the product. Data privacy is the cost.

Over one half of American consumers own an Alexa-enabled device or other AI-powered digital smart assistant. This rapid adoption of AI technology has created the potential for an untenable and unsustainable surveillance state in which private data brokers such as Amazon can control the flow of information and hold hostage the individual consumer.

The existing U.S. legal framework—a sectoral regime heavily dependent upon the principals of “Notice and Choice,” under the ineffectual oversight of the Federal Trade Commission—is ill-equipped to deal with the privacy issues presented by the AI-based data collection of smart assistants. The time for comprehensive federal data privacy reform is now. The states should not shoulder this burden. Instead, Congress must act to establish a uniform system of rules that will federally regulate the collection and retention practices of data brokers and safeguard the autonomy and data privacy of the individual.

* J.D. Candidate, Fordham University School of Law, 2020. B.A., Brown University. I wish to acknowledge the invaluable contributions, insightful comments, and steadfast encouragement of IPLJ Senior Writing & Research Editor, Elliot Fink, and Professor Olivier Sylvain. I would also like to thank my family for their unwavering support— especially my mother for being my mentor, my sounding board, and my first writing teacher.