A coalition of child and privacy advocacy groups recently filed a complaint alleging that Amazon’s “kid-friendly” Echo Dot speakers are anything but.
The 96-page complaint, which was filed with the Federal Trade Commission Thursday, claims that Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids devices and its FreeTime on Alexa service unlawfully record and store conversation data of young children. It also accuses Amazon of continuing to keep conversation data even after parents try to delete it.
Along with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), the complained was co-signed by 17 other digital advocacy and children’s rights groups.
If the assertions in the complaint are true, Amazon’s alleged practices would be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). That federal privacy law requires websites or services used by children to obtain parental consent before collecting or storing data from kids under the age of 13.
Amazon, for its part, denies the allegations. In a statement to Vox, the company wrote that FreeTime and Echo Dot Kids Edition are “compliant with the (COPPA).”
The Echo Dot Kids device first launched last year as a kid-friendly version of Amazon’s other speakers, and Amazon specifically maintained that parents would have control over their kids’ data with the FreeTime service. But the coalition of groups behind the complaint says that the device collects and stores transcripts of conversations with children, as well what content kids use or engage with on the platform.
“Amazon markets Echo Dot Kids as a device to educate and entertain kids, but the real purpose is to amass a treasure trove of sensitive data that it refuses to relinquish even when directed to by parents,” said Josh Golin, the executive director for CCFC.
In addition to the recording and storage of data spoken by kids, the complaint also takes issue with the fact that most of the platform’s third-party, child-specific skills don’t have adequate privacy policies and that Amazon doesn’t get parental consent for each new child voice profile it creates.
Along with the complaint, a bipartisan group of legislators also sent a letter to the FTC requesting that the agency investigate the matter.