Amazon will pay two separate penalties for privacy violations: $25 million for allegedly not deleting children's data and $5.8 million for failing to restrict access to Ring security videos, the Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday.
The company agreed to pay the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after it was accused of failing to delete Alexa recordings at the request of parents.
It was found to have kept hold of sensitive data for years.
Amazon's doorbell camera unit Ring will also pay out after giving employees unrestricted access to customers' data.
The proposed settlement, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, means that besides the payment, Amazon will have to delete inactive child accounts along with stored voice recordings and geolocation information. Amazon would also be barred from using the data to train any of its algorithms. The proposed order must be approved by the federal court to go into effect.
“Children’s speech patterns and accents differ from those of adults, so the unlawfully retained voice recordings provided Amazon with a valuable database for training the Alexa algorithm to understand children, benefitting its bottom line at the expense of children’s privacy,”
the FTC said.
Amazon kept the kids’ data to refine its voice recognition algorithm, the artificial intelligence behind Alexa, which powers Echo and other smart speakers, Bedoya said. The FTC complaint sends a message to all tech companies who are “sprinting to do the same” amid fierce competition in developing AI datasets, he added.
“Nothing is more visceral to a parent than the sound of their child’s voice,” tweeted Bedoya, father of two small children.
Amazon said last month that it has sold more than a half-billion Alexa-enabled devices globally and that use of the service increased 35% last year.