Amazon to pay more than $30 million for Alexa, Ring doorbell privacy violations

Amazon will pay a $25 million civil penalty to settle a Federal Trade Commission allegation that it kept children’s voice commands and location data recorded by its Alexa voice assistant for years, violating a child privacy law and deceiving parents, The Associated Press reported.

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Along with the fine for the Alexa privacy violation, Amazon has been ordered to revamp its practices when it comes to privacy measures, Reuters reported. The settlement requires Amazon to delete certain data collected by Alexa, an internet-connected digital assistant.

FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya said in a statement that “when parents asked Amazon to delete their kids’ Alexa voice data, the company did not delete all of it.”

“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA (the Child Online Privacy Protection Act) and sacrificed privacy for profits,” Samuel Levine, the FTC consumer protection chief, said in the FTC’s statement.

According to Amazon, data from children’s interactions with Alexa was kept to refine its voice recognition algorithm.

Amazon also agreed to pay $5.8 million for privacy violations for allowing employees and contractors access to consumers’ private videos obtained through the Ring doorbell camera.

According to the FTC, “Ring gave its employees and hundreds of Ukraine-based third-party contractors up-close-and-personal video access into customers’ bedrooms, their kids’ bedrooms, and other highly personal spaces – including the ability to download, view, and share those videos at will.”

The agency said that “during a three-month period in 2017, a Ring employee viewed thousands of videos of female users in their bedrooms and bathrooms, including videos of Ring’s own employees.

“Rather than detecting what the employee was up to through its own technical controls, Ring only learned about the episode after a female employee reported it. That’s just one example of what the FTC calls Ring’s ‘dangerously overbroad access and lax attitude toward privacy and security.’”

As part of the agreement, Ring is required to disclose to customers how much access to their data the company and its contractors have.

Amazon bought California-based Ring in 2018, and many of the violations alleged by the FTC predate the acquisition, according to AP.

The $5.8 million financial settlement will be used for consumer refunds, according to the FTC.

While Amazon agreed to settle the claims, the company denied violating the law.

“Our devices and services are built to protect customers’ privacy, and to provide customers with control over their experience,” the company said in a statement.

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