Amazon launched it's Echo Dot Kids Edition, a smart speaker for kids similar to the regular Echo Dot last year. The Echo Dot Kids Edition can play music, answer questions, read stories, and tell jokes while always recognizing that it has a younger audience. It also featured parental controls that allowed parents to set limits and monitor usage. Some were concerned about privacy controls at the time of its launch, and now those children's privacy advocates have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission asking them to investigate whether the smart speaker violates privacy rights.
Advocates from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) as well as 17 other agencies behind the complaint allege the device is keeping sensitive data that children say near the device, even when deleted by parents.
“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, CCFC’s Executive Director. “COPPA makes clear that parents are the ones with the final say about what happens to their children’s data, not Jeff Bezos. The FTC must hold Amazon accountable for blatantly violating children’s privacy law and putting kids at risk.”
The filing claims that the Echo Dot Kids Edition violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in multiple ways, including collecting sensitive information from children, including their voice recordings and purchasing habits, and keeps that information indefinitely, even when a parent tries to delete it. In response to a request for comment from VOX, a spokesperson for Amazon maintained their products are compliant. “FreeTime on Alexa and Echo Dot Kids Edition are compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA),” the statement read.
The complaint also addresses a problem with how the devices receive consent from children who may be guests in the home. While a parent may have agreed to purchase the Echo Dot for their child and agree to the terms, when kids have playdates or other children over, there is not necessarily express consent for Amazon to record the information provided by these children. Experts say the privacy terms are simply too convoluted for the average person to understand.
It's unclear if the FTC will pursue the complaint at this time.