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| 2 minutes read

Amazon Settles FTC Alexa & Ring Cases

Amazon agreed to pay $31 Million to settle a pair of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cases stemming from its popular Ring doorbell cameras and its Alexa digital assistant devices. 

$25 million of the payment is to settle consumer privacy violations regarding its Alexa devices. The remaining $5.8 million is in customer refunds for alleged privacy violations involving its doorbell camera Ring.

FTC commissioners had unanimously voted to file the charges against Amazon in both cases. The proposed orders must be approved by federal judges.

The FTC case against Amazon's Alexa device alleged violations of the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law intended to protect children on the internet. FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya said, “when parents asked Amazon to delete their kids’ Alexa voice data, the company did not delete all of it.” Instead, the FTC said Amazon kept the kids’ data to build its Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm, including its  voice recognition database, which the FTC says also powers Echo and other smart speakers. 

The FTC noted its complaint against the tech giant Amazon is meant to send a message to all tech companies “sprinting to do the same” in their AI datasets. 

The FTC Ring doorbell case alleged Amazon's weak security measures let employees and contractors access consumers’ private videos, allowing hackers to take control of some accounts. The Ring devices are enabled with voice, video, and geolocation capabilities. 

In addition to $31 million in payments, Amazon is ordered to delete certain data collected by its Alexa devices, overhaul its data deletion practices for both Alexa and Ring devices, and make its privacy policies more transparent. When a consumer tells Amazon to delete its data, or the data of its child(ren), the tech giant will be required by FTC consent order enforcement to do so. Amazon is now further prohibited from using deleted geolocation and voice information to create or improve any data product. The order also requires Amazon to create a privacy program for its use of geolocation information which it apparently did not previously have in use. 

“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA (the Child Online Privacy Protection Act) and sacrificed privacy for profits,” Samuel Levine, the FCT consumer protection chief, said in a statement. 

“Nothing is more visceral to a parent than the sound of their child’s voice,” tweeted Bedoya, the father of two small children.

In May, 2023, Amazon said it has sold more than a 500 million Alexa devices.

By these settlements, Seattle-based Amazon did not admit violating the law.

"Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated [the law and] sacrificed privacy for profits,” FTC Consumer Protection Chief.