Menu Close

Data Protection: Amazon to pay $31m over Alexa, Ring privacy violations

*The United States’ Federal Trade Commission announces the e-commerce and technology giant has agreed to pay $31 million fine to settle two Federal lawsuits, for alleged failure to implement basic privacy and security protections, enabling hackers to take control of consumers’ accounts, cameras and videos via Alexa and Ring products

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

For privacy violations with a couple of the global technology company’s products, Amazon is to pay a multi-million Dollar fine after two lawsuits from the United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

ConsumerConnect learnt the US market regulatory Commission announced that Amazon had agreed to pay approximately $31 million to settle two federal lawsuits, which alleged Amazon violated users’ privacy – including that of children – via its Alexa voice assistant and its Ring doorbell cameras.

It is recalled that Amazon had run into privacy issues before.

The leading e-commerce company and Big Tech, August 2021, was fined €746 million (Euros) after it allegedly broke the European Union’s (EU) GDPR data protection rules over the way it uses consumers’ personal data for advertising purposes.

However, Amazon is appealing that fine, reports Silicon UK.

On Ring fine

Amazon’s Silk browser also ran into trouble way back in 2011 over the way it collected users’ web surfing history, which resulted in Congressional scrutiny, report stated.

However, 12 years after, Amazon is facing two separate FTC complaints about its Ring cameras, as well as its Alexa voice assistant.

Regarding the Ring camera, the FTC had charged Ring (owned by Amazon since 2018) with compromising its customers’ privacy by allowing any employee or contractor to access consumers’ private videos.

Amazon also purportedly failed to implement basic privacy and security protections, enabling hackers to take control of consumers’ accounts, cameras, and videos.

Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said: “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.”

What the FTC regulations say on data protection

Under the FTC order, Ring is prohibited from profiting from unlawfully accessing consumers videos, and it will pay $5.8 million in consumer refunds.

Fine for Alexa product privacy violation

The second charge comes after both the FTC and the  US Department of Justice (DoJ) charged Amazon with purportedly violating children’s privacy law (known as the COPPA law) by keeping kids’ Alexa voice recordings forever and undermining parents’ deletion requests.

It was gathered the FTC and DoJ alleged that Amazon had prevented parents from exercising their deletion rights under the COPPA Rule, kept sensitive voice and geolocation data for years, and used it for its own purposes, while putting data at risk of harm from unnecessary access.

“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA and sacrificed privacy for profits.

“COPPA does not allow companies to keep children’s data forever for any reason, and certainly not to train their algorithms,” said also stated.

Under the proposed Federal court order, Amazon will be required to delete inactive child accounts and certain voice recordings and geolocation information and will be prohibited from using such data to train its algorithms.

Besides the data deletion requirement in the proposed order, Amazon will be required to pay a $25 million civil penalty.

Amazon agrees to settle two lawsuits, but….

In response to the allegations of privacy violations, Amazon said it wished to settle the lawsuits, but it disagreed with the FTC allegations on its two products.

The company in a statement issued Wednesday, May 31, 2023, said: “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,” according to CNN

Amazon also explained: “We built Alexa with strong privacy protections and customer controls, designed Amazon Kids to comply with COPPA, and collaborated with the FTC before expanding Amazon Kids to include Alexa.

“As part of the settlement, we agreed to make a small modification to our already strong practices, and will remove child profiles that have been inactive for more than 18 months unless a parent or guardian chooses to keep them,”

Hitherto Amazon has faced a number of privacy concerns over its Ring doorbells, after criticism that Ring’s products are being used by increasing numbers of law enforcement agencies in the US to facilitate surveillance and criminal profiling in cities and towns, report said.

In November 2020, privacy activists expressed alarm when police in Jackson, Mississippi requested access to resident’s smart doorbells.

Privacy concerns were also raised when it emerged that Amazon keeps records of every motion detected by its Ring doorbells.

Amazon also turned every Echo speaker and Ring security camera or doorbell in the United States into a shared wireless IoT network (known as Amazon Sidewalk).

And American users had just a week to opt out the proposal.

In March 2023 Amazon said it would allow third party devices to connect to Amazon Sidewalk network that has spread to over 90 percent of the US population, according to report.

Kindly Share This Story




Kindly share this story