Amazon to Pay $25 Million Settlement for Violating Children’s Privacy with Alexa
Amazon has reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), agreeing to pay $25 million (£20 million) following allegations of violating children’s privacy rights through its Alexa voice assistant. The company was accused of failing to delete Alexa recordings upon parents’ requests, resulting in the retention of sensitive data for an extended period.
Additionally, Amazon’s subsidiary, Ring, will pay $5.8 million (£4.6 million) as a result of providing employees unrestricted access to customer data. This disclosure raised concerns as thousands of Ring employees and contractors were able to view and download customers’ private video recordings.
According to the FTC complaint, Amazon had repeatedly assured users, including parents, that they could delete voice recordings collected by the Alexa system. However, the company failed to fulfill this promise, retaining the data for an extended period and utilizing it unlawfully to enhance the Alexa algorithm.
Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, accused Amazon of misleading parents, holding onto children’s recordings indefinitely, and disregarding deletion requests, stating that the company prioritized profits over privacy.
Regarding Ring, the FTC stated that the company’s lax approach to privacy allowed employees to access customers’ private spaces through video recordings, putting consumers at risk of surveillance and harassment. The complaint highlighted an incident where an employee viewed numerous video recordings of female users in intimate areas of their homes, with the action only ceasing once it was discovered by a colleague.
Amazon defended itself by asserting that Ring had already addressed these issues independently years ago, before the FTC’s investigation began. However, the FTC’s order emphasized that prioritizing profit over privacy is not acceptable.
In response to the settlements, Amazon expressed disagreement with the FTC’s claims but stated that the resolutions would help put these matters in the past. The company pledged to continue developing additional privacy features for the benefit of its customers.