Privacy Advocates Demand That The FTC Investigate Amazon's Digital Assistant For Kids

Andrew Cummings
May 12, 2019

Amazon never mentions this when you review and delete your voice history from the Alexa privacy page, and there's no way to delete the transcripts yourself.

"The FTC must hold Amazon accountable for blatantly violating children's privacy law and putting kids at risk".

The device is collecting sensitive data on children that parents can't delete, which would violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the groups said. The technology uses machine learning to help train the system's AI and understand its owner better through their requests.

In response to the complaint, a spokesperson for Amazon said the device is "compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act". When we did the same experiment with a regular Echo Dot and standard menus in the Alexa app, we were able to delete the information. It tells parents to read the privacy policy of each kid skill (impermissible under COPPA).

Amazon keeps children's personal information longer than reasonably necessary. Alexa remembered and repeated the information, despite several attempts by an adult to delete or edit it. But when the child asks what Alexa remembers, it still recalls that she's allergic to walnuts.

Amazon does not disclose which kid skills (developed by 3rd parties) collect child personal information or what they collect. It also works on Amazon Alexa, so you can listen to your favorite music on your Echo device, or even a Sonos One or Sonos Beam - or really any other third-party Alexa speaker.

A group of 19 consumer and public health advocates, including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, also called on the FTC to investigate the device on Thursday.

And the privacy policies of those that do are often "confusing or contained irrelevant information", according to a press release that accompanied the complaint. That led Google and Apple to pull them from their app stores. "Our testing found that deleting the voice recordings does not delete the transcription of those recordings, which may contain personal information identified with a specific child or device".

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