Amazon recently came to two separate agreements in court over its violations of users’ privacy — totaling over $31 million in fines.
Amazon agreed to pay a $25 million civil penalty after the Federal Trade Commission took them to court over allegations that Amazon violated child privacy laws using their Alexa voice assistance feature. Legally, Amazon isn’t allowed to collect children’s voices or store personal information using Alexa.
On top of the fine, Amazon is also being forced to overhaul its data collection practices, including deleting certain data that it recorded from users to fit the new requirements — on top of getting ordered to impose stricter data collection standards and more transparent privacy rules.
Essentially, Amazon violated a child protection law from 1998 by keeping children’s voices and data to improve their software’s personalization systems. This in turn gives Amazon a competitive edge in the market and prompted other companies to do the same. This FTC hopes the large fine is a deterrent for any other companies trying to use the same tactics.
“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA (the Child Online Privacy Protection Act) and sacrificed privacy for profits,” declared Samuel Levine, the FCT consumer protection chief.
The second fine was much smaller, totaling $5.8 million. In this case, the fines revolved around privacy violations for its doorbell product, Ring. While the complaints predate Amazon buying the company in 2018, Amazon did little to rectify these issues.
The smart doorbell had serious vulnerabilities that allowed employees and contractors to see private videos of a user through Ring. On top of that, security vulnerabilities left it open for threat actors to steal your information or even hack into your system.
Amazon may have disagreed with these accusations, but it agreed to pay the $5.8 million fine (used for customer refunds) to “put these matters behind us.”
Despite Amazon’s complaints, the FTC voted unanimously to enforce the fines and the restructuring of how they collect data.
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