Amazon pays £20m over Alexa’s breach of children’s privacy rights

Amazon has agreed to pay US$25 million (£20 million) to settle claims that it breached children’s privacy rights through its Alexa voice assistant. The tech giant reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after being accused of not deleting Alexa recordings when requested by parents, resulting in the retention of sensitive information for years. Additionally, Amazon’s doorbell camera subsidiary, Ring, will pay US$5.8 million (£4.6 million) after granting employees unrestricted access to customer data.

The FTC complaint stated that Amazon reassured users, including parents, that they could delete voice recordings collected by Alexa. However, the company did not comply, retaining the data unlawfully to enhance its Alexa algorithm. Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, accused Amazon of “misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests”, prioritising profits over privacy.

The FTC also revealed that Ring, acquired by Amazon in 2018, permitted “thousands of employees and contractors” to view recordings of customers’ private spaces. These individuals could access and download sensitive video data for personal use. Amazon informed the BBC that “Ring promptly addressed the issues at hand on its own years ago, well before the FTC began its inquiry”. However, the complaint disclosed that one employee viewed thousands of video recordings of female users in intimate spaces, such as bathrooms or bedrooms, and was only stopped when a colleague noticed.

Levine stated, “Ring’s disregard for privacy and security exposed consumers to spying and harassment. The FTC’s order makes clear that putting profit over privacy doesn’t pay.” Amazon responded, saying, “While we disagree with the FTC’s claims regarding both Alexa and Ring, and deny violating the law, these settlements put these matters behind us.” The company also pledged to continue developing privacy features for its customers.

World News

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Lilly Larkin

Lilly is a writer with a diverse international background, having lived in various countries including Thailand. Her unique experiences provide valuable insights and culturally sensitive perspectives in her news reporting. When not writing, Lilly enjoys exploring local art scenes, volunteering for community projects, and connecting with people from different cultures.