Lawmakers Raise Privacy Questions About Amazon Echo Dot For Kids

"Amazon takes privacy and security seriously," the spokesperson said. "And FreeTime on Alexa is no different."
They want to know what third parties have access to this data, and whether it's used for marketing purposes. Markey and Barton ask if Amazon is building a profile or "voiceprint" of each child who uses the Echo Dot Kids Edition and how long Amazon holds on to this information if a parent doesn't delete it.
Amazon does not share audio recordings with developers, who are prohibited from collecting personal information. FreeTime on Alexa voice recordings are only used for delivering and improving the Alexa voice service and FreeTime service—they are not used for advertising or product recommendations, the spokesperson said.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal heightened awareness of technology companies' data collection practices and created public backlash. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent 10 hours testifying before Congress about how the not-bankrupt political consulting firm gained access to the personal information about 87 million users, in its efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The legislators also ask what steps Amazon has taken to comply with the parental consent requirements of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
An Amazon spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the letter this morning and said the company will work directly with the legislators to respond to their questions. However, she sought to reassure consumers that the Echo Dot Kids Edition device and its companion FreeTime service comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
The voice-activated device, which retails for $80, is promoted on Amazon's site as a benign digital nanny: "a kid-friendly DJ, comedian and storyteller." It comes with a year's free access to a service called FreeTime Unlimited, which provides ad-free radio stations and playlists, 300 Audible books for kids, including Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan, and games and other content from Disney and Nickelodeon.
When children talk to an Amazon Echo Dot for kids, who, exactly, is listening?
Parents can access all their children’s voice recordings in the Alexa app, and delete them individually or all at once, which also deletes them from the Amazon server. Amazon said that during set up, the Alexa app asks for parental approval and provides information about the privacy and security of their children’s voice recordings.
"While these types of artificial intelligence and voice recognition technologies offer potentially new educational and entertainment opportunities, Americans' privacy, particularly children's privacy, must be paramount," wrote Markey and Barton.
They want to know if parents can review and delete these recordings, or any other information Amazon collects along the way. The lawmakers asked Bezos to provide details about whether Amazon records and saves children's interactions with the device and if these conversations are converted to text and stored.
Ed Markey and Rep. Sen. Joe Barton posed that question in a letter sent to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking how the online retail giant protects the privacy of children who use the smart speaker.
Last month, nearly two dozen child advocacy and watchdog groups called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google for allegedly violating children's privacy laws with its YouTube video service.
Parents can find more information on Alexa and overall privacy practices here.” /> This is by hardware design: no power = no audio in. Customers can press the mute button on the top of the device, which electrically disconnects the microphones.
UPDATED with response from Amazon