US Senators asked for another FTC investigation of Amazon’s Echo device for kids
Last week, on Thursday, US Senators Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Dick Durbin and Josh Hawley sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition is in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) they claimed that the Amazon device doesn’t comply with COPPA’s requirement of parental consent and doesn’t allow parents to adequately delete their children’s information. They also added that the device captures the voice recordings of the children who speak to it as well as “vast amounts of their personal information.”
Later on Friday, Senator Edward Markey together with Congressman Joe Barton, also sent a letter to Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, with some questions regarding the new Echo Dot Kids Edition. The new product that began shipping last week is a $79.99 gadget that plays kid-friendly music, answers questions, and comes with parental controls. Markey and Barton asked whether Amazon maintains a data profile on each child and how long the company keeps recordings and other information collected by the device, they also stated:
“While these types of artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology offer potentially new education and entertainment opportunities, Americans’ privacy, particularly children’s privacy, must be paramount. There is also increasing concern about the effects of digital media and technology use among children and teens.”
As a result, in a blog posted a few hours after, Amazon stated they created the Echo Dot Kids Edition in collaboration with the Family Online Safety Institute and child development experts from Yale and the University of Washington, as well as local Seattle pediatricians and researchers. The post also said Amazon requires verifiable parental consent to operate the device and said there are multiple ways for parents to listen to and delete a child’s recordings and profile. They added that they don’t share kids’ data with third parties like advertisers.
However, according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, the device allegedly keeps a child’s recorded data even after parents try to delete it via the Alexa app. In order to really delete the information, you’ll have to call up Amazon’s customer support. Angela Campbell, a board member with the Commercial-Free Childhood group stated:
“We spent months analyzing the Echo Dot Kids and the device’s myriad privacy policies and we still don’t have a clear picture of what data is collected by Amazon and who has access to it.”