Amazon has reached an agreement to pay over $30 million in order to settle two federal lawsuits alleging that the e-commerce giant breached the privacy of users, particularly the privacy of children, through the usage of its Alexa voice assistant and its Ring doorbell cameras.
The FTC agreements underscore allegations that Amazon kept Ring recordings and Alexa speech logs for years, in some cases without permission and in spite of requests from customers that they should be deleted.
Additionally, the FTC claimed that Amazon’s loose data policies allowed for frequent illegal access to the material, which is exactly what happened with the Ring doorbell footage.
While disputing the FTC’s allegations related to both Alexa and Ring and denying breaking the law, Amazon claimed in a statement that the agreements “put these matters behind us.”
In 2018, Amazon purchased Ring, opening the door for the e-commerce behemoth to enter the home security industry. Ring also manufactures alarm systems, interior and outdoor security cameras, and video doorbells.
The case against Ring also lists other claimed instances in which malicious actors are allegedly able to communicate to victims through hacked cameras, leading to feelings of discomfort.
According to the complaint, several of these attacks allegedly involved successful password guessing by users, which is indicative of Amazon’s inability to demand secure password security.
The FTC claimed that over 55,000 U.S. consumers suffered from credential stuffing and brute force attacks that compromised Ring devices between January 2019 and March 2020.
Bad actors were able to access hundreds of thousands of films that were captured in private areas of consumers’ homes, including their bedrooms and their children’s bedrooms, using the devices that Ring offered on the pretense that they would improve customers’ security.
According to the proposed settlement, Ring has consented to pay $5.8 million and adopt a new data protection program.
Ring immediately fixed the pertinent concerns on its own years ago, well before the FTC launched its investigation, according to Amazon’s statement.
Amazon will also pay $25 million to resolve the claims made against its Alexa voice assistant.
The FTC charged Amazon for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prohibits the collecting of personal data from children under 13 without parental permission.
Amazon allegedly retained recordings of children’s voices made by Alexa “indefinitely” unless a user directly asked the corporation to remove the recordings, according to the FTC. Additionally, it allegedly occasionally refused to comply with requests to delete data “and instead retained that data for its own potential use.”
According to the proposed Alexa settlement, Amazon must remove voice recordings and geolocation information upon prior customer requests, including those of minors.
The FTC stated that the corporation will also be prohibited from using those data to develop its algorithms. Amazon also consented to develop a geolocation data privacy scheme and to notify customers about the FTC settlement.
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