Amazon Echo Dot Kids Violates Privacy Rules, Advocates Claim

Echo Dot Kids Edition

Children's advocates want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon over privacy concerns.

Research into Amazon's Echo Dot Kids Edition, carried out by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Institute for Public Representation (IPR) at Georgetown Law, found "blatant violations" of children's privacy laws and the illegal collection of their data. It captures the voice recordings of the children who speak to it as well as "vast amounts of their personal information", the senators allege.

The senators said in a letter the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition does not comply with COPPA because it does not live up to parental consent requirements and does not allow parents to delete private information about their children.

Just last month, Amazon drew major criticism when it was revealed that the company's employees had access to Alexa voice recordings of many users and the power to track their locations.

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Amazon met with skepticism from some privacy advocates and members of Congress past year when it introduced its first kid-oriented voice assistant, along with brightly colored models of its Echo Dot speaker designed for children.

Amazon fails to clearly explain how to delete information collected about children through Echo Dot Kids Edition. 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. But when the child asks what Alexa remembers, it still recalls that she's allergic to walnuts. It tells parents to read the privacy policy of each kid skill (impermissible under COPPA). In one example, the voice assistant remembers a girl's walnut allergy even after an adult deleted that information. Such skills are generally produced by independent software developers or other third parties, not Amazon.

Priced around $70, Amazon Echo Kids comes in a range of colors and offers Alexa-specific capabilities (music playback, food ordering, and voice interaction) for the young generation. However, the senators alleged that the children's version of the Echo Dot may be improperly collecting data about the kids who use it.

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