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The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that “a complaint to be filed with federal regulators by a coalition of privacy and child-advocacy groups” will charge that Amazon “is improperly recording and preserving the conversations of young users through its Echo Dot Kids devices … It claims that Amazon’s practices violate federal law protecting the online privacy of kids, and calls on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.”

At the same time, the story says, a letter co-signed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), Sen Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) asks the FTC to investigate Amazon for privacy violations.

The Journal writes that the charges are the first “to accuse the company of the sort of privacy abuses that have embroiled Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.”

Some context for the complaint:

“Amazon launched Echo Dot Kids a year ago as a version of its Alexa smart speaker, but with parental controls and family-focused features. At the time, an Amazon executive described the device as ‘an entirely new way for kids to have fun and learn with Alexa,’ while giving parents peace of mind knowing the content would be age-appropriate.

“The voice-activated device collects transcripts of the voice recordings of its young users, along with viewing and listening habits, and keeps much of the information indefinitely, according to the complaint, which is based on an investigation by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, and the Institute for Public Representation, a public-interest law clinic at Georgetown University.”

Amazon says that its practices are in line with federal privacy laws.
KC's View:
I cannot shake the feeling that Amazon is misplaying this one. The attacks on its approach to privacy and, ultimately, the perception of a lack of transparency when it comes to privacy issues, just seem to be coming from too many angles for it not to have to eventually do some sort of mea culpa.

I’m not sure if it is possible at this point, or specifically what it should do, but I think they have to get out in front of this thing in a way that prevents it from being labeled as being Facebook-like.