What the Tech: Echo Dot Kids

What the Tech

A child advocacy group is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon and the secret recordings of children by the Echo Dot Kids.

Researchers from the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood conducted an investigation into the devices and what they hear and record. The group claims it found that the Echo Dot Kids devices would record what was being said in the room, even when it shouldn’t. In addition to the recording, researchers say it also collects transcripts of the recordings and other data. It also claims that Amazon keeps the recordings even after parents think they’ve deleted it in the Alexa app.

The Echo Dot Kids is nearly identical to other Echo Dots with additional parental controls, and the content it plays (music, books, answers) are G-rated for children.

All internet-connected, voice-activated devices, such as the Google Home and Siri are always listening for the wake word, so unless it is turned off, the microphone is always on. Sometimes these devices think the wake word has been spoken and begins recording.

Amazon says it is compliant with privacy laws and its policies are disclosed (if anyone wants to read them).

You can see and hear what Alexa has recorded by going into Settings in the Alexa app. Choose “account”, “Privacy”, then “review voice history”. The data goes back to the time you first started using an Echo device.

Personally, I was a bit surprised to see and hear a recording from last year of a conversation in my office. I was not talking to Alexa at the time, yet the device recorded :09 of a conversation.

You can delete your complete history or only certain recorded events within the ‘review voice history’ page.

Amazon says it records and saves conversations and commands through Alexa to improve understanding. The CCFC is asking the FTC to conduct its own investigation

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