Is Amazon's Echo Dot Kids Edition violating your child's privacy?

The group also said that the device does not ever erase history completely.

By Matt Day

A coalition of children’s advocacy organizations is asking U.S. regulators to investigate whether Amazon.com Inc.’s Echo kids smart speaker violates privacy law.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, joined by several other interest groups, plans to file a complaint Thursday with the Federal Trade Commission saying Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition infringes on children’s privacy rights. The company retains voice recordings indefinitely and, in some cases, holds onto their personal data even after users tried to delete it, according to the complaint.


Those practices violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, said Josh Golin, executive director of the CCFC.

“Given that Amazon has the money to pay the best corporate privacy attorneys that money can buy, it seems really strange that this was done in such a way that it does violate COPPA in so many ways,” said Golin, who added that Amazon’s system “does feel like it was designed to confuse parents,” rather than protect their children’s privacy.

In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson said: “FreeTime on Alexa and Echo Dot Kids Edition are compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.” The company pointed customers to its Alexa website if they want more information.
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U.S. Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who helped write COPPA, said in a letter to the FTC, joined by other senators, that the new findings raise “serious concerns about the extent to which the Echo Dot Kids Edition complies” with elements of the law.

The CCFC was among the groups critical of Amazon a year ago when the Seattle company first released a kid-focused variant of its popular Echo smart speaker line.

Encased in colorful rubber protectors, the hockey puck-sized devices come with Amazon’s Alexa voice software and features like parental controls and advertising-free radio stations. Also included is a year of Amazon’s FreeTime, a subscription service that offers a curated selection of kid-focused applications.
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The devices, the CCFC contended last year, invaded kids’ privacy and risked outsourcing elements of parenting to corporate-controlled software. Supported by a grant from the Rose Foundation, the Boston-based organization enlisted lawyers with Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation to probe Amazon’s privacy practices.

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The lawyers say they uncovered several potential violations of COPPA, which was passed two decades ago and restricts how companies can use data collected from kids younger than 13.

In the complaint, the groups say Amazon does not adequately verify that they have parental consent to begin collecting data and, afterward, provides inadequate disclosures on what personal information it collects and how Amazon and third parties use that data. Only 15% of the Alexa applications tailored for kids included a link to a privacy policy at all, the complaint says.

The advocates also argue that a privacy feature designed to let parents delete elements of kids’ personal information did not seem to actually erase that knowledge from the software’s memory.

Researchers tried deleting facts they’d previously asked Alexa to remember, as well as the software’s entire history of voice recordings, only to find Alexa could still recite a child’s phone number, address and other personal details on command. In their testing, the only way to actually erase all of the personal information scooped up about a specific child was to delete that child’s profile entirely.

Amazon Wants To Take Over With Redesigned Echo, Smart Clocks, Microwave
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Amazon caused a few gasps at its Alexa event Thursday when it revealed it had 70 things to announce.

The new products give Amazon a greater reach than ever before.

Updates to the internet giant's Alexa-infused Echo smart speakers will allow them to tend to microwave cooking and even have "hunches" regarding what users may want or have forgotten.

Alexa is even developing a personality, complete with a favorite pet or beer.

Here's a round up all of the Alexa-infused products Amazon showcased, including speakers, an in-car device and, a microwave:

Amazon caused a few gasps at its Alexa event Thursday when it revealed it had 70 things to announce. The new products give Amazon a greater reach than ever before. Updates to the internet giant's Ale..
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The revamped Echo Dot has a new look, with rounded edges, and packs more punch, with a 1.6-inch driver delivering 70-per cent-louder audio than the previous model.

The speaker has lower distortion and enhanced bass. It can connect to other speakers and other apps and devices over Bluetooth.

The revamped Echo Dot has a new look, with rounded edges, and packs more punch, with a 1.6-inch driver delivering 70-per cent-louder audio than the previous model. The speaker has lower distortion an..
Read More

If you're craving more low-end tones from your Echo setup, you might consider the Echo Sub.

It delivers down-firing, 100W of bass through its 6-inch woofer, and you can pair it with an Echo or two to create a 2.1 stereo system.

If you're craving more low-end tones from your Echo setup, you might consider the Echo Sub. It delivers down-firing, 100W of bass through its 6-inch woofer, and you can pair it with an Echo or two to..
Read More

Amazon updated its Echo Plus, which includes a smart hub for a range of connected devices.

This time around, it has revamped speakers and a feature called local voice control, which lets you adjust your various smart-home devices even if your internet connection is down.

There's a temperature sensor too, so Echo Plus can tell smart thermostats to turn up the heat when it gets a little chilly.

Amazon updated its Echo Plus, which includes a smart hub for a range of connected devices. This time around, it has revamped speakers and a feature called local voice control, which lets you adjust y..
Read More

Not to be outdone by Chromecast Audio, Amazon has its own audio dongle called Echo Input, including Bluetooth, a microphone and a 3.5mm jack.

It doesn't have a speaker, so you'll need to connect it to your existing audio setup.

Not to be outdone by Chromecast Audio, Amazon has its own audio dongle called Echo Input, including Bluetooth, a microphone and a 3.5mm jack. It doesn't have a speaker, so you'll need to connect it t..
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New arrivals to the Echo lineup this year, Echo Link Amp and Echo Link, are for those who are more particular than most about audio quality.

The former includes a 60W two-channel amplifier with digital and analog connectors. Echo Link, meanwhile, connects to your audio setup to stream high-fidelity music.

New arrivals to the Echo lineup this year, Echo Link Amp and Echo Link, are for those who are more particular than most about audio quality. The former includes a 60W two-channel amplifier with digit..
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Amazon's smart display received an overhaul, as the company beefed up Echo Show with a 10-inch display alongside more powerful speakers and mics.

It has web browsers (Firefox and Amazon's Silk) this time around, along with Skype video chat support and Vevo music videos.

Amazon's smart display received an overhaul, as the company beefed up Echo Show with a 10-inch display alongside more powerful speakers and mics. It has web browsers (Firefox and Amazon's Silk) this ..
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Amazon is dipping into the DVR game this year with Fire TV Recast.

It works with over-the-air networks using an antenna and will send live TV or recorded shows to Fire tablets, Fire TV, Echo Show or mobile devices. And, of course, you can use Alexa to control it.

Amazon is dipping into the DVR game this year with Fire TV Recast. It works with over-the-air networks using an antenna and will send live TV or recorded shows to Fire tablets, Fire TV, Echo Show or ..
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It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Amazon wants to put Alexa in your car, even if you don't have a fancy dashboard infotainment system.

Enter Echo Auto. It's a dongle that connects to your audio system and uses a phone's cell connection (because you need internet access for Alexa to work).

Along with the conversational assistance you'd expect with Alexa, you can use Echo Auto for directions.

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Amazon wants to put Alexa in your car, even if you don't have a fancy dashboard infotainment system.Enter Echo Auto. It's a dongle that connects to your ..
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Amazon has found a way to connect Alexa to pretty much any wall-powered device using its Smart Plugs.

Once you've linked them to an Echo or the Alexa app, you can turn devices on and off, or set timers.

Amazon has found a way to connect Alexa to pretty much any wall-powered device using its Smart Plugs. Once you've linked them to an Echo or the Alexa app, you can turn devices on and off, or set time..
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“We tried multiple ways, multiple time periods, to delete things, but it comes back anyhow,” said Angela Campbell, a professor of law and co-director of Georgetown Law’s institute. “There doesn’t seem to be any way other than discontinuing the service to stop that.”

Amazon says most kid-friendly skills, or Alexa applications, don’t have privacy policies because they don’t collect personal information. Skills associated with FreeTime, the company says, don’t have access to or collect user’s data.

The focus on Amazon is the latest effort by kids’ advocacy groups to push the FTC to scrutinize the privacy behaviors of big technology firms. Similar complaints with the regulator in the last year targeted Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.



The FTC, the main federal agency charged with enforcing privacy law, declined to comment on a complaint it hadn’t received.

Musical.ly, the popular teen video app now known as TikTok, earlier this year agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle claims that it illegally collected children’s personal information.

“The FTC responds to pressure from Capitol Hill, and there is so much interest on Capitol Hill in regulating the big tech companies” Golin said. “We’re hopeful that in this changed climate they will take these incredibly serious violations by Amazon seriously.”
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