Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition
Amazon's Echo Dot for Kids comes with a cute tiger or panda 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+ ($2.99 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 still matter?
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Amazon proudly states they are not in the business of selling your personal information to others, which is good. However, a good question to ask is, why would Amazon need to sell your data when they have their own advertising and retail juggernaut to use your data to sell you and your child more stuff? Because Amazon is in the business of selling you and your child more stuff. They do say they won’t serve third-party interest-based ads to your child under the age of 13 when they are using an Amazon child profile. So that’s something.
Amazon hopes to collect data on your child with your parental consent. They say they can collect things like name, birth date, 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.
And Amazon's Echo Dot for Kids comes with Alexa. So, what's good with Alexa? Well, they do make it possible to automatically delete voice recordings immediately after they are processed. So it’s good to teach your kid to say, “Hey Alexa, delete everything I said today” after they’ve played with Alexa. That's a nice feature after the controversy around human reviewers listening in to Alexa voice recordings. However, Amazon says when you delete your voice recordings, they still can keep data of the interactions those recordings triggered. And transcripts of recordings, as well as records of actions Alexa took in response to your child’s request may still be stored by Alexa services (like Alexa Skills), even if you have not given permission to collect your child’s personal information.
And then there are Alexa Skills, those little apps you use to interact with Alexa. These Skills can be developed by just about anyone with the, uhm, skill. And with too many of the Skills, third-party privacy policies are misleading, incomplete or simply nonexistent, according to one recent study.When your data is processed by an Alexa Skill, deleting your voice recordings doesn’t delete the data the developer of that Skill collects on you. With over 100,000 Alexa Skills out there, many of them developed by third parties, now your data is floating around in places you might never have imagined.
What’s the worst that could happen? Well, Amazon could get to know your kid's personal information pretty well and try to sell them stuff 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, which is nice. The only way to be absolutely 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 child, even with the protections Amazon puts in place, still worries us enough to say this device could come with *privacy not included
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.
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
Child's name, date of birth, gender, email, phone number
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
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.
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
There is a children's privacy disclosure
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Encryption in transit and at rest.
Password-protected Amazon account is needed to set up Alexa.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Amazon Alexa uses natural language processing to understand you and to generate answers to your requests.
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
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