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Lawsuits claim Amazon's Alexa records kids without their consent

The suits follow a request last month to the FTC to investigate the Echo Dot Kids Edition.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read

The new Echo Dot Kids Edition device.


Amazon has been accused again of violating children's privacy with its Alexa-powered smart speakers. Two lawsuits filed this week claim the company fails to get consent from kids when it records them using its voice assistant. 

A plaintiff in a California state lawsuit is 8 years old, while a plaintiff in a Washington state lawsuit is 10. In both cases, their parents brought the cases forward on the children's behalf.

"Alexa routinely records and voiceprints millions of children without their consent or the consent of their parents," the California suit states. "This practice violates California law, which prohibits the recording of oral communications without the consent of all parties to the communication."

The lawsuits could create new challenges for Amazon as it markets its  Alexa  speakers, including to kids. The company on Monday updated its Echo Dot Kids Edition, which was made specifically for children.

The suits also follow a request from children's advocates last month that the Federal Trade Commission investigate the Echo Dot Kids Edition. The advocates claim the device is collecting sensitive data on children that parents can't delete, which the advocates say violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Amazon previously said the device complies with COPPA requirements.

Separately, nonprofit tech company Mozilla last year called on Amazon to provide more specific information on how it uses children's data collected through the Echo Dot Kids Edition.

"Amazon has a longstanding commitment to preserving the trust of our customers and their families, and we have strict measures and protocols in place to protect their security and privacy," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "For customers with kids, we offer FreeTime on Alexa, a free service that provides parental controls and ways for families to learn and have fun together."

In the two new lawsuits, the parents had purchased Amazon Echo devices and installed them in their homes, though the suits say that the children didn't make these purchases or install the Alexa app themselves. In the California suit, the child's father bought an Echo Dot for his child as a Christmas gift and installed it for him.

The suits take issue with Amazon permanently storing audio recordings, which it says neither the children nor their parents consented to. It mentions that Apple's Siri is less intrusive in how it records audio, saying Siri stores recordings for a short period of time then delete them.

Amazon does allow users to delete their audio recordings, though CNET reported last month that text transcripts of these records can still live on in Amazon's servers. 

First published at 8:27 a.m. PT.
Updated at 12:12 p.m. PT: Adds Amazon's statement.