A group of privacy and child advocacy groups is filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids devices record and save the conversations of children.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the complaint contends that even after parents try to delete the data, it remains stored in the cloud. It states that Amazon violated federal laws that protect children’s privacy online, and urges the FTC to investigate. Amazon told the newswire that the eCommerce giant meets federal privacy laws and that privacy policies are disclosed on its website.
This marks the first complaint targeted at Amazon for abusing customers’ privacy. Privacy issues have already gotten Facebook and Google in trouble with lawmakers, regulators, advocacy groups and consumers.
The groups contend in the complaint that the Echo Dot collects transcripts of voice recordings as well as viewing and listening habits, and holds onto them indefinitely, which violates the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act. The complaint is based on the findings of an investigation by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Institute for Public Representation.
To confirm the problem, the investigators used a feature on the Echo Dot Kids that lets children ask Alexa to remember information. The investigators tried to delete the transcripts of those conversations using the parents’ controls, but were unsuccessful. They found that the only way to erase personal information is to call customer support.
“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,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
The claims against the Echo Dot Kids devices prompted lawmakers to sign a letter from Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, calling on the FTC to investigate. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D., Connecticut), Josh Hawley (R., Missouri) and Richard Durbin (D., Illinois). “Children are a uniquely vulnerable population. We urge the Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure their privacy,” the letter said.