Amazon accused of violating kids' privacy with Alexa
New York: US Senators and a group of 19 consumer and public health advocates have accused Amazon for recording and saving conversations that take place around its smart speakers, urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate into the case.
The complaint alleges Amazon's Echo Dot Kids Edition smart speaker of being in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), CNN reported late on Thursday.
Launched last year, the device features a kid-friendly version of Alexa which plays music, reads stories and answers questions to kids.
As part of the complaint, Senators Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Dick Durbin and Josh Hawley claim that "Amazon does not comply with COPPA's requirement of parental consent and does not allow parents to adequately delete their children's information from the device".
Children welfare organisations like the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Centre for Digital Democracy have also asked the FTC to look into the matter.
Reacting to the allegations, the e-commerce giant said it not only worked closely with organisations like the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) while developing Echo Dot Kids Edition but also followed industry's best practices for securing verifiable parental consent.
"Specific to Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime on Alexa, we want you to know that Kid skills in Amazon FreeTime do not collect personal information and we require verifiable parental consent from all customers before enabling FreeTime on Alexa," the company wrote in a blog post.
Launched seven years ago, Amazon FreeTime service helps parents manage the ways their kids interact with technology, including limiting screen time.
The post also highlighted that the company allows parents to review and delete any voice recordings at any time in the Alexa App or on the company website.
"We provide access to our Children's Privacy Disclosure where parents can visit at any time in the Alexa App or on our website. Children's privacy is important to Amazon," the post noted.
There has been no official statement from FTC on the subject as yet.
In May 2018, Senetor Markey and then-Congressman Joe Barton sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with questions about the product asking whether or not Amazon maintains data profile of each child and how long their recordings and information are kept.