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Amazon to Pay $30m After F.T.C. Alleges Alexa and Ring Privacy Violations – Legal Reader

The Federal Trade Commission had claimed that two of Amazon’s most popular products–Alexa and the Ring doorbell camera–actively violated consumer privacy law and child virtual safety regulations.
Amazon will pay an estimated $30 million in fines to settle allegations that several of its smart home products, including Alexa and the Ring doorbell camera, violated consumer privacy protections.
According to National Public Radio, the Federal Trade Commission filed several separate but related lawsuits against Amazon.
In one complaint, the F.T.C. said that Amazon violated privacy laws by keeping recordings of children’s conversations with Alexa.
Amazon, the Federal Trade Commission said, routinely used recordings to improve its algorithms—even when parents contacted the company and asked that such recordings be deleted.
These practices, N.P.R. reports, would constitute violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which requires that technology companies alert and obtain consent from parents when attempting to collect sensitive information from child consumers under the age of 13.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act also requires that technology companies delete such sensitive information upon a parent or guardian’s request.
In another lawsuit, federal regulators said that Amazon employees regularly monitored Ring camera recordings without first seeking or obtaining consumer consent.
National Public Radio states that, in addition to pay millions of dollars in fees, Amazon will not be able to use or repurpose data that should have been deleted in accordance with COPPA.
Amazon must also delete children’s inactive Alexa accounts and notify consumers about the F.T.C.’s actions against the company.
“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA and sacrificed privacy for profits,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine. “COPPA does not allow companies to keep children’s data forever for any reason, and certainly not to train their algorithms.”
Amazon has since said that it disagrees with the F.T.C.’s findings and does not believe that its practices violated any existing federal rules or regulations.
“We take our responsibilities to our customers and their families very seriously,” Amazon said in a statement. “We have consistently taken steps to protect customer privacy by providing clear privacy disclosures and customer controls, conducting ongoing audits and process improvements, and maintaining strict internal controls to protect customer data.”
The Ring-related settlement was announced simultaneously.
In the Ring-related complaint, the F.T.C. said that Amazon had failed to take proper security precautions, both by allowing employees and contractors access to consumers’ Ring feed.
Federal regulators also said that hackers were easily able to access Ring systems, sometimes seizing control of its intercom-type features to solicit sexual favors, insult children, physically threaten entire families.
“Ring’s disregard for privacy and security exposed consumer to spying and harassment,” Levine said. “The F.T.C.’s order makes clear that putting profit over privacy doesn’t pay.”
The orders, N.P.R. notes, will require approval from a federal judge before they can be enforced.
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