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Regulation and Compliance > Litigation

TD Ameritrade, BofA Among 4 Firms Sued Over Biometric Voice Prints  

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What You Need to Know

  • BofA, TD Ameritrade, TD Bank and Capital One Bank are among the latest firms to be sued over their use of biometric voice prints.
  • Similar lawsuits over the same tech have been filed against companies across multiple sectors.
  • The plaintiffs in each class complaint are seeking damages of $1,000 for each violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

Bank of America, TD Ameritrade, TD Bank and Capital One Bank have each been sued in separate complaints seeking class-action status over the companies’ use of biometric voice prints, an increasingly controversial technology that has led to similar lawsuits against companies across multiple sectors, including Amazon, McDonald’s and PetSmart.

Each firm was sued in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California over the weekend by the same two lawyers — Joshua B. Swigart and Daniel G. Shay — on behalf of the four firms’ clients, each alleging the companies violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act by capturing their voice prints without their consent.

The BofA suit was filed on Saturday with Leah Allen, Ryan Childers and Jennifer Meza named as plaintiffs, and the TD Ameritrade (plaintiffs Derek Bruns, David Kauffman and Christopher Jorgens), TD Bank (Russell Smith, plaintiff) and Capital One (plaintiff Ashley Melchor, Cecelia Lahr, Ryan Childers, Ali Khosooi and Joan Wright plaintiffs) suits were each filed on Sunday.

“We have not yet had the opportunity to evaluate these allegations,” a spokesperson for TD Ameritrade parent Charles Schwab told ThinkAdvisor on Monday. “But the security of our clients and their information is and always has been of paramount importance to us.”

TD Bank declined to comment on the complaint. Bank of America and Capital One didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The allegations were the same in each complaint, saying each firm used a system that enabled it to examine the voice of anyone that called it to determine the truth of the callers’ statements.

That software combines audio, voice and artificial intelligence technologies to compare callers’ voices to a comprehensive database of recordings and metrics, allowing the firm to authenticate or refute the true identity of callers, among other things, the complaints noted.

TD Ameritrade, according to the filing, published that it had a “Voice Print System,” saying it “is a secure and convenient way to confirm the identity of clients who call us” and “when clients call us and use Voice Print System, instead of being asked questions for verification by a representative, their voices act as their means of instant access.”

Although TD Ameritrade and TD Bank claimed consumers must enroll in their voiceprint systems, the plaintiffs alleged the firms performed the same or similar voice examinations on anyone that called it and was “secretly using voice print technology for years prior to publishing its existence and seeking enrollment.”

The complaints also alleged the firms did not obtain “express written consent” from any callers before examining and analyzing their voices. The TD Ameritrade and TD Bank filings add that “even those that enroll into its Voice Print System do it verbally over the phone, which does not satisfy the CIPA requirement of express written consent.”

The plaintiffs alleged that each firm was disregarding California residents’ “statutorily protected privacy rights and unlawfully examines or records their voices in violation of CIPA.”

Each defendant has “violated (and continues to violate) CIPA” because it uses a system that examines or records California residents’ voice prints or voice stress patterns to determine the truth or falsity of statements “without their express written consent,” each complaint alleged.

Each complaint is seeking damages of $1,000 for each violation of CIPA and injunctive and “equitable” relief to protect the interests of plaintiffs and the action class by requiring each firm to comply with CIPA’s requirements for the use, recording and examination of voice prints or other voice stress patterns. Each complaint is also seeking pre- and post-judgment interest, legal fees and a jury trial.

(Photo: Bloomberg)