Amazon Slapped With Huge Fine For Allegedly Breaking Child Privacy Laws

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Jason Cohen Contributor
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Amazon is required to pay a $25 million penalty after federal authorities charged the tech giant with breaking a children’s privacy law by permanently retaining recordings from its Alexa voice assistant products, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Wednesday.

The FTC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Amazon for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA Rule) and misleading parents and users of Alexa by ignoring their deletion requests, according to the FTC. Amazon agreed to a settlement that compelled the company to revamp its information deletion policies, and enforce stricter privacy measures as well as pay a $25 million civil penalty.

Amazon stopped parents from using their deletion rights bestowed by COPPA and held onto “sensitive geolocation and voice information, including children’s voice information,” according to a complaint filed by the DOJ on the FTC’s behalf.

“Amazon used children’s recordings—both audio files and transcripts—for purposes such as refining Alexa’s voice recognition and natural language processing capabilities.” (RELATED: FTC’s Republican Members Hit YouTube For Violating Children’s Privacy Rights: Report)

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 15: Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law and Professor of Computer Science, speaks during a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, the on Capitol Hill on June 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Amazon told parents that they could delete their child’s data whenever they desired if they used the Echo Dot Kids Edition, FreeTime on Alexa, and FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa, according to the complaint.

“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA and sacrificed privacy for profits,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in the press release. “COPPA does not allow companies to keep children’s data forever for any reason, and certainly not to train their algorithms.”

The FTC also ordered Amazon to pay $5.8 million in customer refunds in a settlement for an alleged privacy violation for its home security camera product, Ring, according to an FTC press release.

“At Amazon, we take our responsibilities to our customers and their families very seriously,” Amazon told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Our devices and services are built to protect customers’ privacy, and to provide customers with control over their experience. While we disagree with the FTC’s claims regarding both Alexa and Ring, and deny violating the law, these settlements put these matters behind us.”

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