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Amazon’s Smart Speakers Collecting Kids Data May Lead to Government Lawsuit

A Federal Trade Commission complaint could lead the US government to sue Amazon over children’s data the retail giant collected through its line of smart speakers, according to a Bloomberg report on Friday.

At issue is whether Amazon’s series of Alexa-powered smart speakers were collecting data on children under the age of 13 without parental consent and retaining it even after users attempted to delete it, which children’s advocacy organizations asked the FTC look into back in 2019, the report said.

Now the FTC is now recommending issuing a complaint that Amazon didn’t confirm parental consent before collecting data and that most of the Alexa activities designed for kids didn’t have a privacy policy, sources told Bloomberg. The Justice Department could take the next step and file a lawsuit against Amazon next month.

The Amazon suit comes amid an FTC crackdown on data collection over the last few years under Chair Lina Khan, including fining the company formerly known as Weight Watchers for improperly storing kids’ info. The commission also ordered Fortnite creator Epic Games to pay $520 million in fines and refunds for tricking kids into making in-game purchases and violating their privacy. 

Increasing scrutiny around the tech industry has raised awareness of how much data is collected and stored by household devices. Concerned owners can tweak their settings to increase privacy around their Amazon Echo speakers and other devices from Apple and Google.

Should the lawsuit find Amazon at fault, it’s unclear how much it could be forced to pay in penalties. While Amazon reportedly claimed to be in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), if it’s found to have violated those rules dictating how children’s data should be protected, the company could pay $50,000 per child affected, according to Politico

Amazon declined to comment. The FTC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.  

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