Amazon Echo Glow
Amazon's Echo Glow is a little round smart lamp designed to be paired up with Alexa devices like the Echo Dot or Echo Show. It can change color, ask Alexa to set to music for a dance party with a light show. There's something called a Rainbow Time that can give visual reminders as the colors change to help them stay on track in the morning or before bedtime. And apparently, it's even "Certified for Human". What does that mean? No idea, but Amazon says it requires no patience. Uhm, ok.
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, birthdate, contact information (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses), voice, photos, videos, location, and certain activity and device information and identifier of your child when they use this device. They use this information on your child to, among other things, provide personalizing 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 Glow doesn't come with a microphone or speakers. By itself, it's really just a pretty light. But it is designed to be paried up with an Alexa-enabled device to control all its features. 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.
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 childs 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 when paired with an Alexa-enabled device, 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?
You can pair it with any compatible Alexa device to control color and brightness with your voice.
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 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.
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.
Amazon has a bug bounty program. Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201909141
Alexa provides some information about its AI at the Alexa FAQ and the Amazon Science webpages.: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201602230 https://www.amazon.science/tag/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?
Got a comment? Let us hear it.