Last year, Amazon launched Echo Dot Kids — which was essentially the exact same as the company’s other devices, but with the bonus of parental controls.
Now, child and privacy advocacy groups claim that Echo Dot Kids violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by recording and storing kids’ conversations. Organizations involved include Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC), Color of Change, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and more.
In a complaint submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the groups wrote:
“The Echo Dot Kids Edition has the capacity to collect vast amounts of sensitive, personal information from children age 13. For example, voice recordings of children are considered personal information under COPPA. The Echo Dot Kids Edition records children’s voices any time it hears the wake word, and it stores these recordings in the cloud unless or until a parent deletes them.”
As its name suggests, COPPA imposes requirements to protect the privacy of children under the age of 13 online. That includes putting restrictions on websites, online services, and more around children’s personal information. Parental consent must be given before a child’s personal information is collected or stored.
With Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids, parents must navigate a “maze of multiple privacy policies,” which the advocacy organizations say violate COPPA because they are “confusing, misleading, and even contradictory.”
The group also claims that Amazon continues to store data from conversations with children even after parents try to delete it. CCFC and the Institute for Public Representation conducted a test to show how Amazon ignores requests to delete or “forget” a child’s information.
“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, in a statement. “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.”
Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the FTC backing the advocacy organizations and requesting that an investigation be opened into the matter. The lawmakers who signed the letter are Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
“Children are a uniquely vulnerable population,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge the Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure their privacy as ‘Internet of Things’ devices targeting young consumers come to market, including promptly initiating an investigation into the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition’s compliance with COPPA.”