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Advocacy group asks FTC to investigate if Amazon Echo Dot spies on kids

Kim Wetzel/Digital Trends

Amazon has recently come under fire for potentially invasive practices of its Alexa voice assistant, and now an advocacy group has raised concerns that the company’s devices may be spying on kids. The Campaign for A Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) filed a complaint with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking it to look into potential privacy violations that Amazon may be committing with its Echo Dot Kids Edition smart speaker.

According to the advocacy group, Amazon’s smart speaker designed for children may be storing personal information of children. In a test of Alexa’s “Remember Me” feature, the group asked the voice assistant on the Echo Dot Kids Edition to remember information like a social security number, home address, and phone number. The speaker obliged, as one might expect. But after the group attempted to delete the information from the device, they found that it still was able to recall those personal details without issue. The group tried multiple ways to delete the data but to no avail.

That, according to the group, is troubling. Users should have a clear and easy-to-understand method to remove information from the smart speaker, especially data that as sensitive as a social security number. Users who want to sell their device or are worried about others accessing their data need a process to clear that information. The group argues that Amazon is sending people on a “wild goose chase” to find privacy policies that in some cases don’t even provide a clear answer to how data is stored and managed.

For its part, Amazon denied the accusations levied by the advocacy group, arguing that the Echo Dot Kids Edition has parental controls that provide sufficient ability to manage stored data. The company also told ABC its smart speaker is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and insisted voice recordings are not used for advertising or product recommendations — though that doesn’t really address the issue of information being stored even after users believe they have removed it. We may have a clearer understanding of what type of information the Echo Dot Kids Edition holds onto if the FTC decides to investigate the case.

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