Amazon Smart Speaker For Kids Raises Privacy Concerns, Lawmakers Say

Four senators are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Amazon's smart speaker for children violates a federal privacy law.

“Children are a uniquely vulnerable population,” Sens. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) say in a letter sent to the FTC Thursday.

“Voice recognition technology and artificial intelligence tools such as the Echo Dot Kids Edition have the potential to enrich and educate kids, including through music and storytelling,” the lawmakers write. “But these devices also present significant privacy concerns. The Echo Dot Kids Edition captures not only the voice recordings of the children who speak to it, but also vast amounts of their personal information.”



The letter comes the same day that watchdogs Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy asked the FTC to investigate the Echo Dot Kids Edition -- a voice-activated device that allows parents to pick services for their children, block explicit material and set time limits. The advocacy groups alleged Thursday in a complaint that the device violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits companies from knowingly collecting personal information from children younger than 13 without verifiable parental consent.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition allegedly collects a host of personal information from children -- including names, phone numbers, email addresses and other data -- but fails to adequately inform parents about the data collection, or obtain verifiable consent, the advocacy groups alleged. The watchdogs also said tests of the device show it doesn't allow parents to review and delete all personal information provided by children.

The lawmakers reiterate those claims in their letter to the FTC.

“While the direct notice message on Amazon's 'Parental Consent' screen describes the types of data the Echo Dot Kids Edition may collect, it does not provide a detailed list of the types of data the device actually collects,” the senators write.

They add that research by the advocacy groups shows that Amazon “does not fully comply” with requests by parents to delete their children's information.

An Amazon spokesperson says the company's device complies with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

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