Amazon Settles Child Privacy Allegations for $25 Million Following FTC Accusations

Tech giant Amazon has agreed to pay a substantial $25 million settlement to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations that it violated children’s privacy rights through its popular voice assistant, Alexa.

The company was accused of failing to comply with parents’ requests to delete Alexa recordings, retaining sensitive data for extended periods without authorisation.

FTC involvement

The FTC complaint highlighted that Amazon had provided repeated assurances to users, including parents, that they would delete voice recordings collected by the Alexa system. However, the company failed to fulfil this promise, storing the data for years and using it unlawfully to enhance its Alexa algorithm.

Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, condemned Amazon’s actions. He accused the company of misleading parents, indefinitely retaining children’s recordings and disregarding deletion requests. Levine commented that Amazon prioritised profit over privacy, sacrificing users’ personal information for its own gain.


Ring also in the firing line

In addition to the Alexa case, Amazon’s subsidiary Ring, known for its doorbell cameras, will also pay a settlement. Ring has agreed to pay $5.8 million after allegations emerged that it granted its employees unrestricted access to customers’ data. The FTC stated that thousands of Ring employees and contractors had access to customers’ private spaces, enabling them to view and download sensitive video data for personal use.

The complaint revealed that an employee had accessed thousands of video recordings belonging to female Ring camera users, which included intimate spaces within their homes such as bathrooms and bedrooms. The employee’s actions were only halted when a colleague discovered them.

The FTC criticized Ring’s disregard for privacy and security, emphasizing that such actions exposed consumers to the risks of spying and harassment. Levine emphasized that the FTC’s order sends a clear message that prioritizing profit over privacy will not go unpunished.

In response to the allegations, Amazon stated that Ring had already addressed the issues independently years before the FTC initiated its inquiry. However, the complaint provided evidence of Ring’s failures in protecting user privacy, pointing out the employee’s unauthorized access to sensitive video recordings.

Amazon, while denying any violation of the law, expressed disagreement with the FTC’s claims concerning both Alexa and Ring. Nevertheless, the company decided to settle the matters, stating that these settlements would put the issues behind them. Amazon further reassured customers of its commitment to enhancing privacy features in its products.