Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

Warning: *privacy not included with this product

Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

Amazon
Wi-Fi Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 1, 2023

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

Amazon's Echo Dot for Kids comes with a cute owl or dragon face plastered on the round globe of the smart speaker. They're cute. They're also driven by Alexa, Amazon's sometimes helpful, sometimes creepy AI voice assistant. With the Echo Dot for Kids, parents get a few extra things beyond what the regular Echo Dot gives you, like a free year subscription to Amazon Kids+ ($4.99 per month after the free year), which has lots of kid-friendly content plus premium Alexa Skills. There's also parental controls accessible from the Parent Dashboard. Alexa can read your kid bedtime stories, answer all their questions, play games, and help them with their homework, all while helping Amazon potentially learn a lot about your kid. Hey Alexa, does privacy matter?

What could happen if something goes wrong?

Amazon proudly states they are "not in the business of selling your personal information to others." True. But, Amazon doesn’t need to sell your personal information to others when they have their own retail and advertising juggernaut to use your data to sell you more stuff. Because Amazon is in the business of selling you more stuff. And it’s not just Amazon hoping to sell you stuff. Amazon has a whole program for others to sell you stuff on on their sites too. And those sellers get to use that data Amazon collects on you to target you with the stuff they want to sell. So, while Amazon might not be in the business of selling your personal information, they are in the business of collecting as much of your personal information as they can, then selling access to that personal information to others to target you with ads to sell you more stuff.

With Amazon for Kids products, Amazon hopes to collect data on your child with your parental consent. They say they can collect things like name, birthdate, contact information (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses), voice, photos, videos, location, as well as certain activity and device information and identifiers (such as cookies, device serial numbers, and IP addresses)] of your child when they use this device. They use this information on your child to, among other things, provide personalized offerings and recommendations. Yes, they’re learning about your child to target your child with more stuff they’ll want you to buy. They do say they won’t serve third-party interest-based ads when your kids are using an Amazon child profile. So that’s something.

Here's the important thing everyone needs to know about Amazon and their Kids products -- Amazon has proven themselves untrustworthy when it comes to doing what they say they will do to protect kids' (and everyone else's) privacy. In 2023, the US's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged Amazon with violating children's privacy laws by keeping kids voice recordings and geolocation data indefinitely, undermining parent's deletion requests, and putting people's data at risk. Amazon was required to pay a $25 million settlement. So yeah, Amazon breaking the law by keeping children's voice recordings to train their AI, ignoring parents' deletion requestions, and generally being awful and dishonest about honoring their privacy promises is a pretty good reason to think long and hard about putting an Alexa-abled device anywhere near your kids.

Also, as the parent with your regular, non-Amazon Kids account, Amazon likes to collect a bunch of data on you. Things like: records of your shopping habits, Alexa search requests, the TV shows you watch and when you watch them, the music you stream, the podcasts you listen to, when you turn your lights on and off, when you lock your doors, identifiers such as your name, address, phone numbers, or IP address, your age, gender, your location, audio and visual information like those Alexa-requests or photos you take, the names and numbers of people listed in your contacts. The list goes on and on and on.

And what do they do with all that personal information they collect on you? Well, they use it to target you with advertising, of course. Lots and lots of advertising. They do say they don’t use information that personally identifies you to display interest-based ads (of course, we have to trust them on this, which, given their track record, might not be a wise thing to do). They also use your personal information to identify your preferences and personalize products and services to keep you using those products and services as much as possible. And they say they can share that personal information with a number of third parties.

Let’s talk for a minute about Alexa itself. Amazon's Echo Dot for Kids comes with Alexa always happy to help your kid. Amazon does make it possible to automatically delete voice recordings immediately after they are processed, although remember, they got in big trouble for often ignoring these requests. And, Amazon says when you delete your voice recordings, they still can keep data of the interactions those recordings triggered. So, if you buy a something through Amazon Alexa, Amazon won't forget you bought it just because you ask them to delete the voice recording of that purchase. That record of the purchase is data they have on you going forward and may use to target you with ads for more stuff.

Oh, let’s not forget Amazon’s terrible, awful, no-good track record at protecting and respecting their customers' data. So far in 2023 alone, Amazon has been been charged by the FTC in the US for violating children's privacy laws by keeping kids voice recordings and location data for years and undermining parent's deletion requests of their kids data. This resulted in Amazon agreeing to pay a $25 million penalty. Then Amazon got sued by the FTC for enrolling people in Amazon Prime without their consent and then making it way too hard to cancel the subscription. Amazon also had to settle with the FTC again for $5,8 million for poor privacy and security in their Ring cameras that let employees spy on customers through the cameras. Shoot, last year we here at *Privacy Not Included found a security vulnerability in Ring cameras and reported it to Amazon to fix. They, so far as we can tell, have done nothing to fix this security issue. All this and then in September, 2023 the FTC and 17 US state Attorneys General sued Amazon for "illegally maintaining monopoly power."

That's all just in 2023 alone. If you look back further, you'll find more Amazon issues. There’s the Amazon employee who was caught stealing the personal information of over 100 million CapitolOne customers. And that’s not the only time Amazon employees with access to lots of customer data were caught leaking customers personal information. It’s happened quite a few times, actually. And then there’s the Alexa security bug that opened the door for hackers to potentially access users personal information and even their conversation history. These are some of the known privacy and security issues Amazon has had (there could be more unknown ones as well). And we get it, Amazon is a huge company with many products and employees and it’s impossible to secure everything 100% of the time. But that’s the point. When you collect such a vast amount of personal information on people, you’ve got to be super, duper, extra careful to secure it everywhere, all the time. Amazon has shown they can’t always do that.

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, Amazon could get to know your kid's personal information pretty well starting at a young age. Amazon will track your kid's habits unless you opt out--and if you opt out, that means you'll likely lose services and features you probably don't want to lose. You can request Amazon delete your child's data, but again, trusting Amazon to follow through on that is a gamble The only way to be (mostly) sure all this data is deleted--both your child's and your own--is to delete your Amazon account completely. All in all, a product that can potentially collect this much data on young children from a company was a pretty bad track record as Amazon at respecting parents' data requests is one we really have to warn likely comes with *privacy not included.

One more note on Amazon from a privacy researcher’s point of view. Trying to read through Amazon’s crazy network of privacy policies, privacy FAQs, privacy statements, privacy notices, and privacy documentation for their vast empire is a nightmare. There’s so many documents that link to other documents that link back even more documents that understanding and making sense of Amazon’s actual privacy practices feels almost impossible. We wonder if this is by design, to confuse us all so we just give up? Or, if maybe even Amazon’s own employees possibly don’t know and understand the vast network of privacy policies and documentation they have living all over the place? Regardless, this privacy researcher would love to see Amazon do better when it comes to making their privacy policies accessible to the consumers they impact.

Tips to protect yourself

- Set Alexa parental controls
- Opt your child out of as much personal data collection as possible
- Teach your child how to say, “Hey Alexa, delete everything I said today” after they're done playing with Alexa.
- Manage your Alexa privacy settings
- Turn on ""Do Not Send Voice Recordings""
- Turn the microphone off when you do not need it
- Regularly delete your voice history or set an auto-deletion of the old voice data
- Minimize usage of Alexa Skills to only the most trusted ones
- When using Amazon Skills, be mindful that they are not operating under Amazon's privacy policy. Better not share sensitive data with Skills' developers.
- Set up Anonymous Mode when using the app to protect your data
- When starting a sign-up, do not agree to tracking of your data.
- Do not sign up with third-party accounts. Better just log in with email and strong password.
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images, location unless neccessary)
- Keep your app regularly updated
- Limit ad tracking via your device (eg on iPhone go to Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit ad tracking) and biggest ad networks (for Google, go to Google account and turn off ad personalization)
- Request your data be deleted once you stop using the app. Simply deleting an app from your device usually does not erase your personal data.

  • mobile

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: Yes

Microphone

Device: Yes

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: Yes

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

Parents should look into privacy controls for child profiles.

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

While Amazon Privacy documentation seems OK regarding how they claim to hand the privacy of children data, there is too much evidence that Amazon does not actually follow their own promised privacy practices. According to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, Amazon kept children’s sensitive voice and geolocation data for years, and used it for its own purposes, while putting data at risk of harm from unnecessary access.

Amazon.com Privacy Notice

"Amazon does not sell products for purchase by children. We sell children's products for purchase by adults. If you are under 18, you may use Amazon Services only with the involvement of a parent or guardian. We do not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 13 without the consent of the child's parent or guardian."

Children's Privacy Disclosure

" We use Child Personal Information to provide and improve our products and services, including personalizing offerings and recommendations for children, communicating information, enforcing parental controls, and giving parents visibility into how their children use our products and services. We will not serve interest-based ads to your child when they are using an Amazon child profile."

"We share Child Personal Information only as described in our Privacy Notice. Your child may be able to share information publicly and with others depending on the products and services used."

"This disclosure does not apply to the practices of any third-party services (including apps, skills, and websites) that may be accessed through an Amazon product or service. Before using any third-party service, you should review the applicable terms and policies to determine their appropriateness for your child, including the service’s data collection and use practices."

Alexa and Alexa Device FAQs

"Consistent with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, we require permission from a parent before kid services like Amazon Kids on Alexa can be used. Unless you have granted permission previously, you'll be asked to give permission the first time you attempt to set up Amazon Kids on Alexa or before you can complete creation of a voice ID for your child. After you've given permission, you will receive a confirmation e-mail."

"Kid skills are skills that have been identified by the developer as directed to children under age 13. Consistent with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, we require permission from a parent before kid skills can be used. You'll be asked to give permission the first time you attempt to use a kid skill. After you've given permission, you will receive a confirmation e-mail."

How can you control your data?

While Amazon Privacy documentation seems OK regarding how they claim to hand the privacy of children data, there is too much evidence that Amazon does not actually follow their own promised privacy practices. According to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, Amazon undermined parents deletion rights and kept children’s data when they shouldn’t have violating children’s privacy protections under COPPA.

"You choose whether to give us permission to collect Child Personal Information from your child. If you have not given us permission to collect Child Personal Information, we may make available certain voice services intended for children (e.g., certain Alexa features), and we may process your child’s voice recordings to provide these services, but we will not store those voice recordings. We do not knowingly collect, use, or disclose Child Personal Information without this permission.

We make available controls so that you can remain involved in your child's use of Amazon services. To learn more about revoking permission for a child or how to review or delete Child Personal Information, please visit the Manage Parental Consent page or contact Customer Service using the information provided below.

Please note that if you withdraw the permission you have provided for your child or request deletion of Child Personal Information, certain services and features may no longer be available."

"Yes, you may opt out of processing of your personal data relating to the use of your Kindle e-reader collected by the operating system of that device ("device usage data") for marketing and product improvement purposes via All Settings > Device Options > Advanced Options > Privacy. If you turn this setting off, we will stop processing this device usage data for the purposes of serving you customized marketing offers and improving our products and features."

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Bad

In September 2023, FTC filed a lawsuit against Amazon for illegally maintaining monopoly power.

In July 2023, Apple and Amazon were fined by Spain antitrust watchdog.

In June 2023, Mozilla published a major vulnerability in Ring Doorbell.

In March 2023, FTC and DOJ charged Amazon with violating Children’s Privacy Law by keeping kids’ Alexa voice recordings forever and undermining parents’ deletion requests.

In 2023, the company also agreed to pay $5.8 million in customer refunds for alleged privacy violations involving its doorbell camera Ring.

In 2022, Paige Thompson, a former Amazon employee accused of stealing the personal information of 100 million customers by breaching banking giant CapitalOne in 2019, was found guilty by a Seattle jury on charges of wire fraud and computer hacking.

In July 2021, the Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection issued a 746 million euro fine to Amazon for allegedly violating the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In August 2020, security researchers from Check Point pointed out a flaw in Amazon's Alexa smart home devices that could have allowed hackers access to personal information and conversation history. Amazon promptly fixed the bug.

In October 2020, Amazon fired an employee for leaking customer email addresses to an unnamed third party.

In October 2019, Forbes reported that Amazon employees were listening to Amazon Cloud Cam recording, to train its AI algorithm.

In April 2019, it was revealed that thousands of employees, many of whom are contract workers and some not even directly employed by Amazon, had access to both voice and text transcripts of Alexa interactions.

In 2018, Amazon's Echo Dot device recorded private conversation and sent it to random contact. The recording consisted of 1,700 audio files.

Child Privacy Information

"We share Child Personal Information only as described in our Privacy Notice. Your child may be able to share information publicly and with others depending on the products and services used."

"Amazon does not sell products for purchase by children. We sell children's products for purchase by adults. If you are under 18, you may use Amazon Services only with the involvement of a parent or guardian. We do not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 13 without the consent of the child's parent or guardian. For more information, please see our Children's Privacy Disclosure."

Can this product be used offline?

No

User-friendly privacy information?

No

Amazon has a complicated mess of various privacy policies, privacy hubs, FAQs, and Advertising Preference pages, and more that is difficult to find, navigate, read, and understand.

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Strong password

Yes

Password-protected Amazon account is needed to set up Alexa.

Security updates

Yes

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Amazon has a bug bounty program.

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

"The new Music Maker app allows children to become composers by combining a number of different instruments and sound effects into their own composition, while being assisted by the app's AI."

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

Yes

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Yes

*privacy not included

Dive Deeper

  • FTC and DOJ Charge Amazon with Violating Children’s Privacy Law by Keeping Kids’ Alexa Voice Recordings Forever and Undermining Parents’ Deletion Requests
    Federal Trade Commission Link opens in a new tab
  • Amazon to Pay $25 Million to Settle Children’s Privacy Charges
    NY Ties Link opens in a new tab
  • Amazon settlements highlight concerns about digital privacy protections
    Yahoo! News Link opens in a new tab
  • Mozilla Publishes Ring Doorbell Vulnerability Following Amazon’s Apathy
    Mozilla Foundation Link opens in a new tab
  • Amazon to Pay $30M for Ring and Alexa Privacy Violations: Tips for Protecting Your Smart Home Data
    CNet Link opens in a new tab
  • FTC Sues Amazon for Illegally Maintaining Monopoly Power
    Federal Trade Commission Link opens in a new tab
  • What is Amazon Kids on Alexa, and how do I turn it on?
    TechRadar Link opens in a new tab
  • Review: Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition
    Wired Link opens in a new tab
  • 'Alexa, are you invading my privacy?' – the dark side of our voice assistants
    The Guardian Link opens in a new tab
  • Amazon Echo’s privacy issues go way beyond voice recordings
    The Conversation Link opens in a new tab
  • Study Reveals Extent of Privacy Vulnerabilities With Amazon’s Alexa
    NC State University Link opens in a new tab
  • Alexa vulnerability is a reminder to delete your voice history
    CNET Link opens in a new tab
  • Security Researchers Probed 90,194 Amazon Alexa Skills—The Results Were Shocking
    Forbes Link opens in a new tab
  • ‘Millions of people’s data is at risk’ — Amazon insiders sound alarm over security
    Politico Link opens in a new tab

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