Sens. Seek FTC Investigation of Amazon's Kids Echo Dot

A bipartisan quartet of Senators has added their voices to the request by privacy groups that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Amazon's Echo Dot Kids Edition for potential violations of children's online data privacy protections.

In the letter, Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), cited the "new evidence"--in the group's complaint--that Amazon's digital assistant violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) with its digital assistant. Markey as the principal author of COPPA and freshman Hawley has made drilling down on Big Tech's data handling a signature issue.

“Voice recognition technology and artificial intelligence tools such as the Echo Dot Kids Edition have the potential to enrich and educate kids, including through music and storytelling," they wrote. "But these devices also present significant privacy concerns,” write the Senators in the letter to all five FTC Commissioners. “Children are a uniquely vulnerable population. We urge the Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure their privacy as ‘Internet of Things’ devices targeting young consumers come to market, including promptly initiating an investigation into the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition’s compliance with COPPA.”

The FTC complaint, filed by a consortium led by the Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, alleges that tests of the device show that it retains children's data even after parents believe it has been deleted, and that Amazon ignores those requests to delete info or "forget" a child's information, which violates COPPA, they say. In addition, they argue that Amazon's "maze" of multiple privacy policies are confusing and even contradictory, and thus misleading, and thus another COPPA violation.

The company says the device complies with COPPA and that the company provides multiple entry points for accessing its privacy policy. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.