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Little bad news for the Bezos ATM: Amazon is fined $25 million over its practices for handling children’s data through its Alexa voice-activated assistant and Echo devices. That sounds like a lot to those of us who aren’t megaconglomerates or their leadership, but it is about two days of revenue for Amazon based on recent sales performance.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced they jointly filed a complaint against Amazon, saying the company “prevented parents from exercising their deletion rights under the COPPA rule, kept sensitive voice and geolocation data for years and used it for its own purposes, while data was at risk of being corrupted by unnecessary access.
“Today’s Amazon Alexa settlement should set off alarms for parents across the country — and is a warning to any AI company scrambling to collect more and more data.”
FTC Commissioner Alvaro M. Bedoya
The privacy laws for children that Amazon allegedly broke
COPPA, which stands for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Actrefers to a 1998 law passed by the U.S. Congress requiring “operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps and IoT devices, such as smart toys)” that reach children under the age of 13 to publish clear privacy policies , direct notice to parents, and allow parents to delete the information and prevent further collection.
“Amazon’s conduct of indefinitely retaining children’s voice recordings and ignoring parents’ requests for deletion violates COPPA and prioritizes profit over privacy,” said Samuel Levine, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. from the FTC. “COPPA unequivocally prohibits companies from storing children’s data indefinitely without valid reason, especially for algorithm training purposes.”
A warning to the AI industry
One of the FTC commissioners, Alvaro M. Bedoya, also jumped at the opportunity tweet a direct warning to the burgeoning AI industry and all companies using machine learning: “Today’s Amazon Alexa settlement should set off alarms for parents across the country – and is a warning to any AI company sprinting to collecting more and more data.”
In response to these allegations, a proposed federal injunction has been issued, pending approval, requiring Amazon to remove inactive child accounts, certain voice recordings, and geolocation data, and prohibiting the company from using such data to train its algorithms.
Where Amazon went wrong
Despite Amazon’s repeated assurances to users about the ability to delete voice and geolocation data collected by the Alexa voice assistant service, the complaint alleges that the company has failed to keep those promises by retaining and using the data to improve the Alexa voice assistant service. improve algorithm.
Amazon, a leading global retailer, collects extensive user data, including geolocation and voice recordings. It defends its data handling practices by claiming that its Alexa service and Echo devices are designed with user privacy in mind, including parental controls for removing geolocation data and voice recordings.
The complaint shows that even when parents asked for their children’s voice recordings to be removed, Amazon failed to completely erase the transcripts from its databases, which, among other things, undermined the COPPA rule requiring parental consent to collect the data. of children.
The The FTC also filed a complaint today against Ring, Amazon’s home security subsidiaryfor allegations that it compromised the privacy of its customers by allowing any employee or contractor access to private videos, and for failing to take basic privacy and security measures.
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