Child Privacy Violations Cost Amazon $25M
Amazon will pay $25 million (£20 million) to settle claims that its Alexa voice assistant broke the privacy rights of children.
After being accused of not deleting Alexa recordings when parents asked, the company decided to pay the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
It was found that it had kept secret information for years.
Amazon’s doorbell camera unit, Ring, will also have to pay out because workers had full access to customer information.
A document filed in federal court in the District of Columbia says that Ring will pay $5.8 million to the government.
According to the FTC’s complaint about Alexa, Amazon “prominently and repeatedly assured its users, including parents, that they could delete voice recordings collected” by the system.
But the company did not do this. Instead, the lawsuit said, it kept data for years and used it illegally to help improve its Alexa algorithm.
Samuel Levine, head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement that Amazon “misled parents, kept children’s recordings forever, and ignored parents’ requests to delete them.”
He also said that the company “gave up privacy for profits.”
In the same way, the FTC said that Amazon’s 2018 purchase of Ring gave “thousands of employees and contractors” access to recordings of customers’ private spaces.
The group said that they were able to look at and download private video data from customers for their own use.
In a response to the BBC, Amazon said, “Ring quickly fixed the problems on its own years ago, long before the FTC began its investigation.”
But the complaint says that one employee watched thousands of videos that belonged to female Ring users and “surveilled intimate spaces in their homes, like their bathrooms or bedrooms.”
It said that the worker wasn’t stopped until a coworker saw what they were doing.
“Ring’s lack of concern for privacy and security put customers at risk of being spied on and harassed,” Mr. Levine said. “The FTC’s order makes it clear that putting profit over privacy doesn’t pay.”
Amazon said, “We don’t agree with the FTC’s claims about Alexa and Ring, and we don’t think we broke the law, but these settlements put these issues to rest.”
The company also said that it will keep coming up with new ways to protect customers’ privacy.