Big News!: Google Sued for Use of AI Software that Listens in On Calls in Nationwide Class Action Lawsuit!
Friday, October 27, 2023

Hi CIPAWorld! The Baroness here and I got some BIG CIPA news today.

A putative nationwide class action lawsuit was filed against Google recently on October 23, 2023.

Let’s dive in.

The background.

Defendant Google has developed and provides a customer service product called Google Cloud Contact Center AI (GCCCAI) as a software-as-a-service.

Google contracts with numerous entities, such as Verizon, to monitor channels for voice-based interactions.

GCCCAI is a “human-like generative AI powered contact center” that, among other things, “empowers human agents with continuous support during their calls and chats by identifying intent and providing real-time, step-by-step assistance” and “uses natural language processing to identify call drivers and sentiment that helps contact center managers learn about customer interactions to improve call outcomes.”

For instance, if a consumer calls Verizon’s Customer Contact Center, he or she reaches a virtual agent. If the consumer requests to speak with a human agent, the virtual agent transfers the consumer—along with a transcript of the conversation up until that point—to a human agent.

Ok. But this is where it gets interesting.

After the virtual agent transfers the consumer to a live agent, one would think the virtual agent drops or disappears. But not here. Google still listens in the background. More specifically, Google:

  • monitors the state of the conversation with the human agent.
  • Not only does it listen in, it also transcribes the conversation in real time for the agent to reference during the call or for analysis after the call.
  • It also analyzes the conversations to be able to suggest articles and offer step-by-step guidance to the agent.
  • It provides “smart replies” to the agent based on the analysis.

AI can do so many things.

In this case, Plaintiff Ambriz has called Verizon’s Contact Center several times. As described above, Ambriz would first interact with a virtual agent and then would be transferred to a human agent. At all times, Ambriz reasonably expected his conversations with Verizon to only be between himself and Verizon—not that a third party was listening in.

Ambriz alleges that he did not provide his consent for such conduct to take place.

Based on these alleged violations, Ambriz sued Google for violations of Cal. Pen. Code § 631(a). Ambriz seeks to represent two classes:

All individuals who, while in the United States, had the contents of their conversations with Verizon read and learned by Defendant using GCCCAI.

All individuals who, while in the State of California, had the contents of their conversations with Verizon read and learned by Defendant using GCCCAI.

Ambriz alleges that during consumers’ calls with Verizon’s support center, Verizon and Google fail to inform consumers, prior to any recording: (i) that a third party, Google, is listening in on consumers’ communications with Verizon, (ii) that a third party, Google, is tapping or otherwise making an unauthorized connection with the consumer’s telephone conversation using GCCCAI and (iii) that the content of consumers’ confidential communications with Verizon are being recorded, collected, intercepted, and analyzed by a third party, Google, using GCCCAI.

Now let’s look at the law.

California Penal Code § 631(a) makes it a violation to “read or attempt to read or learn the contents or meaning of any message, report, or communication while the same is in transit or passing over any wire, line or cable or is being sent from or received at any place within this state” without the consent of all parties to the communication.

The key here is CONSENT.

Here, Ambriz alleged that he never provided his consent for his conversations to be listened in on or for his communications to be read or learned in real time.

It will be interesting to see how this case progresses.

As you folks know, under CIPA, there are statutory damages of $5,000 for each violation!!

So the potential liability in this case can be millions or even billions!

 

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