A coalition of consumer and privacy groups urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Amazon has violated privacy laws meant to protect children, claiming the company illegally collects personal information on kids through smart speakers.
In a complaint filed Thursday, 19 organizations alleged Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition collects “vast amounts of sensitive, personal information from children under age 13,” but does not comply with the federal Children Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) for a host of reasons, including failing to obtain proper parental consent.
The groups, led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy, also claimed Amazon keeps audio recordings of children’s voices indefinitely unless parents delete them. But even when parents try to delete the recordings, Amazon does not necessarily delete all of the child’s personal information, according to the complaint.
“Our testing found that deleting the voice recordings does not delete the transcription of those recordings, which may contain personal information identified with a specific child or device,” the complaint says.
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the smart speaker is compliant with COPPA and referred a reporter to a company blog post. The post said Amazon obtains parents’ consent when they enter their payment card verification code or a one-time code sent via text message. Parents can delete the recordings through an app or on its website, and they can contact Amazon customer service to delete their child’s profile and personal information, the web giant wrote in the post.
Consumer Reports said its own testing confirmed the findings of privacy groups. The magazine said it asked the Echo Dot Kids Edition to remember a birthday, the color of a dog (blue), and a name, then used the appropriate menu to delete the information. When Consumer Reports asked the Dot what it remembered, the magazine found all of the information had been retained.