Amazon Found Violating Young Consumer Rights
Many consumers likely do not realize that Amazon, as one of the world’s biggest retailers, collects information about consumers through the Alexa product, ranging from geolocation data, to voice recordings, and more. Thus, although the company advertises that its devices and services are “designed to protect your privacy,” in fact, the company has been reportedly retaining children’s recordings indefinitely; even when parents sought to delete that information.
In late May, news reports indicated that Amazon’s practices had been in active violation of several consumer protection laws, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, concerning its deletion practices and privacy safeguards. Specifically, according to complaints, Amazon reportedly assured its users that they would delete recordings collected by its Alexa voice assistant and geolocation data collected by the associated app, but then failed to actually do this, and, instead, unlawfully retained and used the data to improve its own internal algorithms. In doing so, the company has now been accused of actively preventing parents from exercising their deletion rights under the COPPA Rule and holding onto sensitive geolocation and voice data for years, using it for its own purposes and placing the sensitive data at risk of a breach.
What the COPPA Rule Requires
COPPA dictates that companies cannot keep data from children (minors) on an indefinite basis for any reason, and also dictates that certain practices must be followed with respect to companies’ algorithms. As part of the protection for consumers that COPPA provides, companies are required to delete inactive child accounts, geolocation information, and certain voice recordings, and are prohibited from using this data to influence their algorithms. In fact, the COPPA Rule in part requires that operators of online services and/or websites directed to children specifically under the age of 13 not only notify parents about the information that they are collecting, but that they obtain parents’ consent first for the collection of that data and provide an opportunity for them to delete that information at any time.
As a result of these consumer legal violations, Amazon is now:
- Required to pay a $25 million civil penalty
- Prohibited from using this information (both subject to consumer deletion requests and in connection with creating or improving the company’s products)
- Required to delete inactive Alexa accounts of children
- Required to notify users about this action, as well as deletion and retention controls and practices
- Prohibited from misrepresenting its privacy policies
- Required to develop a privacy program regarding its use of geolocation information
Let Us Help You Today
There is no question that online marketplaces are essentially jungles where companies can both directly and inadvertently become predators, with consumers – especially young consumers – put at risk of becoming prey. If you have concerns that your consumer rights have been violated, contact our Columbus consumer attorneys at the Kohl & Cook Law Firm LLC today to schedule a free consultation and find out more about your rights and options.