Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

Warning: *privacy not included with this product

Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

Amazon
Wi-Fi Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

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.
mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

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?

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Amazon will not serve interest-based ads to your child when they are using an Amazon child profile. You choose whether to give Amazon permission to collect Child Personal Information from your child. If you have not given Amazon permission to collect Child Personal Information, Amazon may make available certain voice services intended for children (e.g., certain Alexa features), and they may process your child’s voice recordings to provide these services, but they will not store those voice recordings. No personally identifiable information nor children-related data are shared with third-party advertisers.

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.

How can you control your data?

Amazon says they make controls available so you can remain involved in your child's use of Amazon services. You can review or delete Child Personal Information.

It is good that Amazon says that Kid Skills are subject to security and privacy requirements during the skill certification process, and these skills must follow stricter content requirements. For example, they require parental approval to enable Kid Skills. Their policies require that Kid Skills cannot promote products, content, or services, or direct end-users to engage with content outside of Alexa. Kid Skills may not include advertising, collect any personal information, or include content not suitable for all ages. Parents can review and delete voice recordings associated with their account at any time through the Alexa app or through the Alexa Privacy Hub.

Note that even when audio or text records are deleted, Amazon may still retain other data concerning your interactions, such as all records of actions Alexa took in response to your request. They say this allows them to do things like continue to provide your reminders, timers, and alarms, process your orders, remember the things you've taught Alexa, and show your shopping and to-do lists and messages sent through Alexa Communications.

However, our big concern is that third-party Kids Skills that work with Alexa are not required to have privacy policies. Because of this, we cannot confirm if they meet basic privacy and security requirements like how they handle the data or how they delete or retain data. We also aren't able to confirm who is responsible for ensuring privacy standards are met.

If your request was processed by an Alexa skill, deleting your voice recordings does not delete any information that was authorized to be given to and retained by the developer of that skill. Skill developers do not receive voice recordings, but they may be receiving recordings' transcripts or records of actions Alexa took in response to your requests. This is problematic, because a big share of more than 100,000 skills are developed by third parties that are not necessarily bound by Amazon’s privacy policies. The research by North Carolina State University found that "23.3% of 1,146 skills that requested access to privacy-sensitive data either didn't have privacy policies or their privacy policies were misleading or incomplete. For example, some requested private information even though their privacy policies stated they were not requesting private information." In addition to misleading privacy policies, issues included things like developers being able to claim fake identity ('Samsung', 'Apple'), multiple skills sharing the same Alexa trigger words, etc.

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

Needs Improvement

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?

Yes

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

There is a children's privacy disclosure

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Encryption in transit and at rest.

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, which means that anyone who finds a security issue and discloses it responsibly may get paid. Security researchers can report a vulnerability here.

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

Alexa provides some information about its AI at the Alexa FAQ and the Amazon Science webpages:

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

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?

Yes

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Yes


News

What is Amazon Kids on Alexa, and how do I turn it on?
TechRadar
Switch on parental controls so your little ones can use an Amazon Echo unsupervised.
Review: Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition
Wired
Anything Alexa can do, Mom and Dad can do better.
'Alexa, are you invading my privacy?' – the dark side of our voice assistants
The Guardian
One day in 2017, Alexa went rogue. When Martin Josephson, who lives in London, came home from work, he heard his Amazon Echo Dot voice assistant spitting out fragmentary commands, seemingly based on his previous interactions with the device. It appeared to be regurgitating requests to book train tickets for journeys he had already taken and to record TV shows that he had already watched. Josephson had not said the wake word – “Alexa” – to activate it and nothing he said would stop it. It was, he says, “Kafkaesque”.
Amazon Echo’s privacy issues go way beyond voice recordings
The Conversation
Whether it is the amount of data they collect or the fact that they reportedly pay employees and, at times, external contractors from all over the world to listen to recordings to improve accuracy, the potential is there for sensitive personal information to be leaked through these devices.
Study Reveals Extent of Privacy Vulnerabilities With Amazon’s Alexa
NC State University
Issues range from misleading privacy policies to the ability of third-parties to change the code of their programs after receiving Amazon approval.
Alexa vulnerability is a reminder to delete your voice history
CNET
If you haven't been regularly deleting your voice history with Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa, you could have a good reason to start: a recently fixed vulnerability that would've exposed all your conversations with the smart speaker.
Security Researchers Probed 90,194 Amazon Alexa Skills—The Results Were Shocking
Forbes
A research team comprising experts from North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany recently undertook a study of Amazon Alexa skills.
‘Millions of people’s data is at risk’ — Amazon insiders sound alarm over security
Politico
YOUR ORDER HISTORY. Your credit card information. Even your intimate health data. Amazon is amassing an empire of data as the online retailer ventures into ever more areas of our lives. But the company's efforts to protect the information it collects are inadequate, according to insiders who warn the company's security shortfalls expose users' information to potential breaches, theft and exploitation.

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