Amazon is accused of collecting sensitive information from children, including voice recordings, through its Echo Dot Kids Edition and violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in many ways, according to a complaint from numerous consumer groups led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy.
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The complaint alleges that in some cases, Amazon retains the data even after parents believe they have deleted it. According to the complaint, deleting a voice recording does not delete the transcription of those recordings.
In a press release, the groups that filed the complaint said that the privacy policies offered by the company are “confusing, misleading and even contradictory.”
“Amazon markets Echo Dot Kids as a device to educate and entertain kids, but the real purpose is to amass a treasure trove of sensitive data that it refuses to relinquish even when directed to by parents,” Josh Golin, Executive Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said in a statement. “COPPA makes clear that parents are the ones with the final say about what happens to their children’s data, not Jeff Bezos.
“The FTC must hold Amazon accountable for blatantly violating children’s privacy law and putting kids at risk.”
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act says that operators of online services directed to children provide specific notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting data from kids, the complaint says. The complaint also says that Amazon’s system for obtaining parental consent is inadequate and it does not verify that the person consenting is the child’s parent.
The complaint calls on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon’s practices.
“FreeTime on Alexa and Echo Dot Kids Edition are compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA),” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “Customers can find more information on Alexa and overall privacy practices here: https://www.amazon.com/alexa/voice.”
Since the complaint was filed, a group of four Senators have sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission calling for an investigation.
It’s unclear whether the FTC will take up the complaint, since its investigations are rarely public. But the agency has been enforcing children’s privacy rules more seriously in the past year, said Allison Fitzpatrick, a lawyer who helps companies comply with COPPA requirements and was not involved in the complaint.
Patch has reached out to Amazon for comment.
Reporting and writing from The Associated Press was used in this report.