Amazon Violated Children’s Privacy Law, Agrees to Pay $25 Million

Amazon has agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations of violating child privacy regulations through its handling of kids’ voice data on Alexa. The settlement follows a similar agreement with Amazon-owned Ring, where the company was accused of allowing employees and third-party contractors access to customer video content. The settlements reflect the FTC’s ongoing scrutiny of Big Tech companies like Amazon and its efforts to enforce privacy regulations.

According to the FTC, Amazon violated both the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by retaining children’s voice recordings and transcripts indefinitely by default until September 2019. The company also failed to delete transcripts for a significant period and retained voice information and geolocation data. In response, Amazon issued a statement expressing its disagreement with the FTC’s claims but settling to move past the matter. The company emphasized that Amazon Kids was designed with COPPA compliance in mind and highlighted the availability of options for parents to delete recordings and transcripts on the web. It also committed to deleting unused child profiles after 18 months to address concerns about lingering data.

The FTC’s allegations against Amazon echo previous concerns about the company’s privacy practices. In 2019, it was revealed that Amazon workers were reviewing audio clips and transcripts to improve Alexa’s speech recognition, raising privacy concerns. Amazon introduced changes such as enabling voice history deletion and allowing users to opt out of human reviews for transcripts.

While the $25 million settlement may not be substantial, it reflects the FTC’s intent to keep Amazon and other tech giants in check. The simultaneous settlement with Ring, which amounted to $5.8 million, underscores the FTC’s focus on privacy lapses across Amazon’s ecosystem. These settlements come at a time when the FTC, led by Chairwoman Lina Khan, has shown a commitment to tightening regulations and increasing oversight of Big Tech companies. Recently, the agency has scrutinized Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical, demonstrating its vigilance in addressing potential antitrust and privacy concerns.