Amazon Echo Dot slammed for compromising Kids’ Privacy

A child protection group has come out and filed a complaint with the FTC, also known as the Federal Trade Commission. The group has urged FTC to investigate the Echo smart speakers from Amazon. The reason behind this complaint has been lodged is that FTC has come up with an agenda of Commercial-Free Childhood. The Center of Digital Democracy and the Consumer Federation of American have made an argument that Amazon is violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection.

The Echo device is attentive in nature and it listens to all the wake words which are being uttered by the kids. The only difference between an Echo and an Echo Kid is that the Kid version is specially made for kids keeping the privacy laws in mind. The complaint which has been filed is available on the website now.

According to the complaint, Amazon can provide information to the data which is collected by the device. Amazon is being much vague and the parents are not really sure whether they should approve of the privacy policy of Amazon or not. The parents can get a clear idea of where the data of their children will be shared and how it will be used by Amazon.

Amazon has been accused now for being unclear and vague. They have also not maintained all the rules under the COPPA, which they are obligated to. It has been said that Amazon is sharing this data with other third-party applications so that the data can be used to manipulate people with the help of artificial intelligence. Along with this, there are multiple concerns which were raised by FTC.

Last year, Amazon released the Echo Dot Kids and it was a success from their part. The Amazon Echo Kid also uses Alexa but it is a bit different from the original Echo Dot. The Kids version comes with parental controls and there are applications which help kids to focus on their work more.

Amazon has said that the free version of the application FreeTime will come with the Amazon Echo Kids where the parents will have the power to manage all the actions their kids can take with the product. There are options available to parents, which include a time limit, skill, parental controls and many more.

This software will also be capable of removing the phone call option from the device. The paid version of the FreeTime application will also come with kid-friendly content such as different radio stations and premium skills like Nickelodeon, National Geographic and Disney.

Amazon, during the time of release, said that the assistance will be synced with the kid’s interactions and it can understand what the kid wants to say. The assistance will specialize in speech patterns of kids. Amazon took the Alexa very seriously and worked hard to make it work with kid’s speech and in between, it can focus on the security aspect of the device. The complaint of the COPPA is that Amazon has failed to pay enough attention to the data protection since this is a kid’s product.

The main argument now is that Amazon can meet with the obligation as the device is operated by kids. These pieces of information are being accessed by a third party application and this is the reason there is absolutely no privacy policy being met for the children. In the summary of the complaint, it was mentioned that:

“Our investigation found that only 15 % of kid skills provide a link to a privacy policy. Thus Amazon notice to parents regarding data collection by third parties appears designed to discourage parents engagement and avoid Amazon’s responsibilities under Coppa.”

The main objective now is how Amazon is obtaining parental consent because it never asks for any kind of debit card or credit card numbers from the users. It has been argued that:

 “It does not verify that the person consenting is the child’s parent as required by Coppa. Nor does Amazon verify that the person consenting is even an adult because it allows the use of debit gift cards and does not require a financial transaction for verification.”

The problem that most of the people have is that Amazon is recording all the audio of the children’s voice and they are being saved by the company. Since this is not allowed, it is a big violation of the company point of view. The transcripts are all being saved even when the recordings are deleted manually. Parents will have to call the Amazon customer care so that they can delete all the data of their children’s database from the server.

Amazon will also allow all the parents to review all the data of their kids before deciding whether to keep them or to delete them. The most sensitive information which is being stored here is all the address and information which are saved and then shared on the server. The artificial intelligence has an option of remembering all the information which it is asked to remember.

The risk of other children is also there with the Eco because if another kid comes to play on a play date then both of them end up playing with the Eco Dot then the information of both of them will be saved in the Amazon database. Amazon has come out and denied any kind of breach of the COPPA. In a statement from Amazon, it was said:

“FreeTime on Alexa and Echo Dot Kids Edition are compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”

The only good thing is that other than the application FreeTime no other application tries to take the information which is stored in the servers. Europe is one of the countries where the concern for data privacy is increasing day by day. There have been 16 proposals which are standard and are asking for feedback in the child’s privacy code. The government of the United Kingdom has very recently published a white paper which has a policy plan which regulates the content present on the internet.

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