Amazon sued because Alexa may be violating child privacy protection laws

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 12
Two class action suits were filed against Amazon on Tuesday, alleging that Alexa-enabled devices illegally record the conversations of children without parental consent, which would constitute a violation of the assorted state laws prohibiting recordings made of a minor without consent.

Amazon under fire for recording children's voices


Amazon has come under fire for violating consent and child protection laws, according to two class action suits that were filed on Tuesday. The suits are a collaborative effort between 19 consumer and public health groups who claim that Amazon's Echo Dot Kids violates laws prohibiting recording before recording.

"Alexa routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents." the complaint reads. "This practice violates the laws of Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington, which prohibit the recording of oral communications without the consent of all parties to the communication."

The suits go on to discuss how other companies, such as Apple, take extra precautions to protect users' privacy.

"Many similar "smart speaker" devices are less intrusive than Amazon's Alexa Devices. Apple's natural-language processing system, "Siri," records communications in a similar manner to Alexa, and sends those recordings to Apple's servers. However, Apple stores those recordings in an identifiable form for only a short period of time, and then deletes the recordings entirely."

Two children, ages 8 and 10, filed the class actions through their guardians. The cases both state that the children used Alexa devices to play music, tell jokes, or answer questions, but never consented to having their conversations recorded. While this case is ostensibly related to state law, the federal COPPA also requires an app or device to obtain parental consent before recording sensitive information about anyone under 13.

The children's parents had no idea the devices were saving permanent recordings of their children's voices to Amazon's servers. Recorded conversations are then sent to a subsidiary in Sunnyvale, California, called A2Z Development Center Inc, which does business as Amazon Lab 126.

Amazon has denied any wrongdoing. According to The Recorder, a spokeswoman for Amazon directed requests for a comment to a blog post about AmazonFree Time, a dedicated service designed to help parents manage the ways their kids interact with technology.

Amazon said FreeTime and Echo Dot Kids require parental consent and, in some cases, do not collect personal information. Parents can also delete their child's profile or recordings, according to the blog.

The lawsuits seek a court order mandating that Amazon destroys the recorded conversations of children and pay statutory damages. These could range from $100 to $5000 per violation, depending on the state.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    bigtdsbigtds Posts: 65member
    It's the parents fault if they didn't read the terms of use. Ignorance is an common excuse nowadays.
  • Reply 2 of 16
    BxBornBxBorn Posts: 44member
    such a BS lawsuit - if you're that concerned about having your children's voices recorded then don't use voice activated devices or do proper research on how these devices work and determine if it's appropriate to have them in the company of your children...we can now expect to have the entire experience of the Echo and other such devices ruined simply because yet another parent won't take responsibility.
    edited June 12 gilly33
  • Reply 3 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,131member
    “Today we’re announcing the discontinuation of all Alexa-enabled devices in the US...”
    chasmlolliver
  • Reply 4 of 16
    JohnDeeJohnDee Posts: 32member
    Quote:  "Parents can also delete their child's profile or recordings, according to the blog."
    So, this DOES mean there's a recording.....
    chasmlolliverdouglas baileyairnerdBestusefulTips
  • Reply 5 of 16
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 1,106member
    Now do the same for Google Home.
    AppleExposedchasmlolliver
  • Reply 6 of 16
    gilly33gilly33 Posts: 246member
    Wow I guess personal responsibility is now passé. Funny the children filed the suit through their parents. I don’t want my conversations recorded so I chose not to get an Echo or any Alexa device. But hey if there is money to be made might just get one this weekend. What a load a crock. 
    chasm
  • Reply 7 of 16
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 958member
    And yet photos of these children are probably posted all over Facebook, Instagram et al for the world to see...
  • Reply 8 of 16
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 936unconfirmed, member
    Funny you guys are making excuses for Amazon.
    lolliverracerhomie3airnerd
  • Reply 9 of 16
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,545member
    Didn't Google (or Amazon, pretty much the same as Google but with faster shipping and better TV shows) just literally announce new brightly-coloured Home Minis (or Echo Dots?) specifically aimed at children??
    AppleExposedlolliverracerhomie3airnerd
  • Reply 10 of 16
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 470member
    What to say what does not sounds cheap. Maybe thanks God society is waking up.
  • Reply 11 of 16
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 936unconfirmed, member
    chasm said:
    Didn't Google (or Amazon, pretty much the same as Google but with faster shipping and better TV shows) just literally announce new brightly-coloured Home Minis (or Echo Dots?) specifically aimed at children??

    Amazon. It's called Echo Kidz or something.

    The new babysitter.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,545member
    chasm said:
    Didn't Google (or Amazon, pretty much the same as Google but with faster shipping and better TV shows) just literally announce new brightly-coloured Home Minis (or Echo Dots?) specifically aimed at children??

    Amazon. It's called Echo Kidz or something.

    The new babysitter.
    “What should we get Susie for her birthday, dear?”
    “I don’t know, maybe a bike?”
    Alexa, butting in: “Susie has been talking about how much she wants the new iPod touch, in pink, now available at Amazon for only $299! Also, she’s been hoping for a big party with a bouncy castle and a pony for her and her friends, Carol, Fran, Jill, Lisa, Steve, Tom, and Jennifer!”
  • Reply 13 of 16
    chasm said:
    chasm said:
    Didn't Google (or Amazon, pretty much the same as Google but with faster shipping and better TV shows) just literally announce new brightly-coloured Home Minis (or Echo Dots?) specifically aimed at children??

    Amazon. It's called Echo Kidz or something.

    The new babysitter.
    “What should we get Susie for her birthday, dear?”
    “I don’t know, maybe a bike?”
    Alexa, butting in: “Susie has been talking about how much she wants the new iPod touch, in pink, now available at Amazon for only $299! Also, she’s been hoping for a big party with a bouncy castle and a pony for her and her friends, Carol, Fran, Jill, Lisa, Steve, Tom, and Jennifer!”
    This was believable until you got to the list of names. It should be more like “Aya, Grayson, Jax, Persephone, Harper, Bear and Sophia” (all children who I’ve seen almost daily for the last few weeks at school pickup).

     ;) 
  • Reply 14 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,131member
    chasm said:
    chasm said:
    Didn't Google (or Amazon, pretty much the same as Google but with faster shipping and better TV shows) just literally announce new brightly-coloured Home Minis (or Echo Dots?) specifically aimed at children??

    Amazon. It's called Echo Kidz or something.

    The new babysitter.
    “What should we get Susie for her birthday, dear?”
    “I don’t know, maybe a bike?”
    Alexa, butting in: “Susie has been talking about how much she wants the new iPod touch, in pink, now available at Amazon for only $299! Also, she’s been hoping for a big party with a bouncy castle and a pony for her and her friends, Carol, Fran, Jill, Lisa, Steve, Tom, and Jennifer!”
    This was believable until you got to the list of names. It should be more like “Aya, Grayson, Jax, Persephone, Harper, Bear and Sophia” (all children who I’ve seen almost daily for the last few weeks at school pickup).

     ;) 
    “Bear”? Unbearable.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,617member
    chasm said:
    Didn't Google (or Amazon, pretty much the same as Google but with faster shipping and better TV shows) just literally announce new brightly-coloured Home Minis (or Echo Dots?) specifically aimed at children??
    Not Google. Must have been someone else. 

    EDIT: Nope, definitely not Google as you remembered it was. Amazon was the one who announced it. 
    https://www.engadget.com/2019/06/12/amazon-echo-dot-kids-edition-freetime-2019/

    From the article:
    "Last year, Amazon unveiled a child-friendly version of its affordable Echo Dot, which came in bright primary colors, offered age-appropriate content and parental controls. Today, the company is announcing a brand new version of the Echo Dot Kids Edition for $70, plus a couple of new features to its kid-friendly FreeTime app as well...
    Amazon said that it worked with the Family Online Safety Institute to create the FreeTime experience and also followed the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. According to Amazon, parental consent is always required when accessing FreeTime, none of the skills collect any personal information, and parents can always delete profiles and voice recordings."
    edited June 13 FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 16 of 16
    gatorguy said:
    Amazon said that it worked with the Family Online Safety Institute to create the FreeTime experience and also followed the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. According to Amazon, parental consent is always required when accessing FreeTime, none of the skills collect any personal information, and parents can always delete profiles and voice recordings."
    As nice as all these comments sound, my impression is that they followed Federal law and did not take into account the various State laws. I'm not a U.S. citizen and am unfamiliar with COPPA - does it contain provisions that override the State laws about voice recordings? If not, Amazon is legally liable. I agree that parents should not have recording devices in the home if they have any concerns, but I don't recall any advertisement from Amazon about their Alexa-based devices that mentioned long-term storage of the recordings made. It may well be somewhere in their terms of use, but I would argue that those documents are overly verbose and rarely examined thoroughly.
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