Senators Call for FTC to Investigate Amazon’s Echo Dot for Kids

A child holds his Amazon Echo Dot.

A child holds his Amazon Echo Dot. Mike Stewart/AP

Lawmakers want to know how the devices are using and storing children’s personal information.

Lawmakers want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a made-for-kids Amazon device for potentially violating online privacy protections around capturing children’s sensitive information.

In a letter penned to the FTC Thursday, Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Dick Durbin D-Ill. and Josh Hawley R-Mo., present “new evidence” that Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition breaches the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. The smart speaker connects to the internet and is meant for children 13 and under.

“Children are a uniquely vulnerable population,” the letter said. “The Echo Dot Kids Edition captures not only the voice recordings of the children who speak to it, but also vast amounts of their personal information.”

Privacy groups also pushed the FTC to initiate an investigation into the tech-giant’s device Thursday via a lengthy document outlining potential violations. They said processing children’s voice recordings is part of the Echo’s basic functionality and that Amazon collects at least four types of personal information from the kid-facing device: voice recordings, persistent identifiers associated with child users, other information about kids associated with those persistent identifiers, and personal information offered by children for the device to “remember.”

Senators cited the group’s complaints in their letter.

The lawmakers said while COPPA requires device operators to give parents access to their kids’ personal information, enabling them to review and delete it, the privacy groups’ review of the Echo Dot for Kids revealed “when parents have asked Amazon to delete recordings of their children, Amazon has kept information gleaned from those recordings.”

They provide an example in which the device recorded a child speaking about her health information and address. When her parent followed the company’s process to delete what was recorded, the device nonetheless appeared to retain the information.

“Researchers attempted to completely erase the child’s information from the device, but could not identify a method for doing so that would not preclude the child from using the device in a meaningful way,” Senators said.

They also listed other grievances including that COPPA requires online entities like Amazon to provide direct notice to parents, obtain verifiable consent and provide details around what information is collected ahead of obtaining it, yet the company does not provide details on the data it actually collects.

Senators also said Amazon can’t ensure that those consenting to kids using the devices are actually their parents, as the law requires.

They added that the parental notice that accompanies the Echo Dot Kids Edition does not disclose how the company uses the data it collects or what it offers up to third parties.

“Researchers were unable to identify the data Amazon shares with ‘skills’—Amazon’s word for ‘apps’ available through the Echo Dot Kids Edition—of which nearly 85% listed in the Amazon Alexa store do not even have a privacy policy,” the letter said.

An Amazon spokesperson told Nextgov that FreeTime on Alexa and Echo Dot Kids Edition "are compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act" and said users can learn more about Alexa and privacy practices at its privacy website. On Thursday, Amazon published a blog post addressing the claims and offering additional information on how the device captures data.

Editor's note: This article was updated to include an Amazon statement. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.