Despite disputing the underlying accusations, Amazon will pay more than $30 million in separate privacy agreements with the Federal Trade Commission regarding its Ring cameras and Alexa speech assistant.

The claims highlight the risks that consumers accept when handing seemingly private information and personal data to internet businesses, such as the possibility of rogue staff exploiting insufficient oversight.

However, Amazon stated that it disagreed with the FTC’s allegations and denied breaking the law. Amazon claimed in certain situations that it had already resolved the underlying issues prior to regulatory intervention.

The corporation attempted to reassure clients about its video and personal data controls and safeguards.

“While we disagree with the FTC’s claims regarding both Alexa and Ring, and deny violating the law, these settlements put these matters behind us,” Amazon stated in response to both privacy settlements.

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According to Bloomberg Law, the complaints and related settlements are the FTC’s first measures against Amazon since Lina Khan took over as chair of the agency. Khan rose to fame in part because of her widely cited paper, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” published in the Yale Law Review.

The Ring privacy action was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the corporation made false or misleading promises about its privacy and security standards, as well as failing to protect consumers’ video footage from unauthorized access.

Amazon agreed to pay $5.8 million as part of the Ring settlement, which is still subject to court approval.

The Ring complaint alleges that one employee “viewed thousands of video recordings belonging to at least 81 unique female users” in otherwise private areas of their homes between June and August 2017, which corresponds to the months preceding Amazon’s acquisition of the company in 2018.

“Ring’s disregard for privacy and security exposed consumers to spying and harassment,” stated Samuel Levine, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a news release. “The FTC’s order makes it abundantly clear that prioritizing profit over privacy does not pay.”

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Ring responded in a public statement, saying, “We want our customers to know that the FTC complaint draws on matters that Ring promptly addressed on its own, well before the FTC began its inquiry; mischaracterizes our security practices; and ignores the many protections we have in place for our customers.”

Alexa and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act: In a separate complaint filed in federal court in Seattle, Amazon is accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) with its Alexa voice assistant service.

“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and ignoring parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA and sacrificed privacy for profits,” said FTC Commissioner Levine in a statement. “COPPA does not permit companies to keep children’s data indefinitely for any reason, including training algorithms.”

Amazon agreed to pay a $25 million civil penalty, delete data for inactive Alexa child profiles, stop misrepresenting its geolocation and voice information privacy practices, implement a comprehensive privacy program, provide notice to users, and comply with reporting and recordkeeping obligations.

“We designed Amazon Kids to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and we applied rigorous standards when we expanded Amazon Kids to include Alexa,” Amazon stated in a blog post announcing the Alexa settlement. “In fact, before we launched Amazon Kids on Alexa several years ago, we collaborated directly with the FTC to share our approach to COPPA compliance.”

Alexa’s settlement is also subject to judicial approval.


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