Coalition Alleges Amazon Illegally Collects Children’s Data

A coalition of 19 consumer and privacy groups plans to file a complaint against Amazon alleging that the e-commerce company’s Echo Dot Kids Edition illegally collects voice recordings and other information from users under age 13, which is a violation of the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA. The Echo Dot Kids Edition is much like the Echo Dot smart speaker device, but targeted to kids using a design featuring bright colors. Via the device, kids can ask questions, play music, and more using voice commands.

COPPA explicitly limits what tech and data companies are allowed to collect without parental permission, and in the 96-page complaint, the coalition alleges Amazon violated that law. It calls for the Federal Trade Commission to “intensify its enforcement of how leading technology companies treat children and their personal data,” reports The Washington Post.

“It is incredibly important not only that Amazon fix these problems but that the FTC enforce COPPA. What we need is a COPPA cop on the beat,” said executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, Josh Golin, whose advocacy group leads the complaint.

When users log onto Amazon’s kid-friendly device, they are met with mentions of COPPA and requests for parental permission to collect data.

“But a draft of the complaint cites a number of alleged failings, including that the permissions need to be more specific and that the online portal lacks an effective system for verifying that a parent is the one providing approval for a child’s use of the device,” reports The Washington Post.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that Amazon keeps voice recordings longer than needed and that the tools to delete recordings don’t work properly. This means that Amazon likely collects data like names, birth dates, residential addresses, and more without parental knowledge — and without their ability to delete the information. The complaint also alleges that there is not sufficient transparency regarding what data third-parties can and do collect through the device.

In a statement, Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said the device is “compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” but did not go into specifics related to the complaint.