Amazon has agreed to a $25 million settlement with the FTC over Alexa privacy for kids

Alexa privacy for kids

In addition to the Ring doorbell privacy concerns settlement, Amazon has reached a million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations of violating child privacy regulations related to Alexa. The FTC claimed that Amazon violated the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by mishandling voice data from children.

According to the FTC, Amazon retained children’s recordings and transcripts indefinitely by default until September 2019, despite claiming to limit access and offering deletion upon request. The Commission also found that Amazon failed to delete transcripts for an extended period of time promptly and continued to store voice data and geolocation information.

In response, Amazon expressed disagreement with the FTC’s allegations but decided to settle to move forward. The company stated that Amazon Kids was designed with COPPA compliance in mind and emphasized that parents have accessible methods to delete recordings and transcripts online. Amazon also addressed concerns raised by the FTC by committing to delete unused child profiles after 18 months to prevent data retention for extended periods.

To address privacy concerns, Amazon introduced the ability to delete voice history through Alexa in May 2019, although it was not enabled by default. Additionally, the company implemented an opt-out feature for human reviews of transcripts in August of the same year. These changes were made following revelations that Amazon had employees reviewing audio clips and transcripts to enhance Alexa’s speech recognition capabilities. Privacy concerns were raised regarding the potential exposure of sensitive information and unauthorized access to customer conversations.

The settlement with Alexa follows another settlement announced simultaneously involving Ring. The FTC sued Ring, a company acquired by Amazon in 2018, for granting employees and third-party contractors unrestricted access to customer video content. Some individuals abused this access, compromising the privacy of Ring customers and other employees. The FTC also criticized Amazon for allowing these security issues to persist for two years. The settlement amount for the Ring case was $5.8 million.

These settlements with Alexa and Ring reflect Amazon’s concerns regarding the regulatory approach of the FTC under chairwoman Lina Khan. Khan has advocated for increased scrutiny of major technology companies, including Amazon. Recently, her agency questioned Amazon about its acquisition of One Medical. Although the penalties imposed in these settlements may not be substantial, it is evident that the FTC aims to keep a check on this influential industry player.

CategoriesAmazon Business Tech
Hamza Khalid

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