Amazon voice assistant for children allegedly records, stores conversations

Amazon's Echo Dot Kids devices, a version of the company's Alexa smart speaker that is marketed toward children, allegedly improperly records and stores young users' conversations in the cloud, according to a complaint filed by privacy and child advocacy groups, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The complaint alleges that the Echo device keeps transcripts of users' voice recordings as well as their viewing and listening habits, even after parents try to delete it. Echo Dot Kids comes with parental controls and "family-focused," features, and when it launched last year, an Amazon executive described it as "an entirely new way for kids to have fun and learn with Alexa," the WSJ reports.

An Amazon spokesperson told the WSJ the company "is compliant with federal privacy laws," and that its privacy policies can be found on its website.

Device users can also ask the voice assistant to remember information such as addresses and telephone numbers, according to the report.

The complaint is based off an investigation by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood as well as the Institute for Public Representation, a law clinic at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Investigators found that to delete a child's personal information from the device, the parent must ask Amazon customer support. Additionally, if a child's profile is deleted, the device's parental controls and Amazon content subscription service for children gets disabled.

Amazon's privacy disclosures do not specify what personal information the company gathers or how that data is used, the complaint states. The advocacy groups said they intend to file the complaint with the Federal Trade Commission May 9, according to the report.

"Amazon markets Echo Dot Kids as a device to educate and entertain kids, but the real purpose is to amass a treasure trove of sensitive data that it refuses to relinquish even when directed to by parents," Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, told the WSJ.

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