Amazon Kindle for Kids
Review date: Nov. 9, 2022
Is your kid a reader? Do they love to get lost in the wonder of stories and heroes and villains and magical worlds? Do they tend to get distracted by apps and videos on tablets and phones? The Kindle for Kids could be a great option for the budding reader in your family. It's basically an Amazon Kindle -- which is designed for reading and not much else -- bundled with a kid-friendly cover, one year of Amazon Kids+ ($4.99 per month + tax after your free year), and a two-year warranty if it breaks. And of course, access so many books to download whenever you want from the Amazon store. To be honest, the Kindle might be the best thing Amazon does, making reading easier for all of us, especially kids.
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 data to others when they have their own advertising and retail 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 selling access to your information to others to target 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.
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 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). 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.
Oh, let’s not forget Amazon’s track record at protecting and respecting their customers' data. That raises some red flags too. Here are a few of the problems we’ve seen over the last few years. 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's 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? The Kindle for Kids eReader actually feels like a fairly safe product, Amazon's huge data collection potential aside. There's no Alexa built in, so you don't need to worry about voice requests being tracked or Alexa skills snooping on your child. Your child can read with both WiFi and Bluetooth turned off. Just be sure you set up a passcode if you travel with this device to protect it from getting stolen and someone buying lots of books on your Amazon account. We do suppose it's possible Amazon could learn all about what books your kid likes to read, only show them similar book recommendations, and your kid never learns there is more to reading than Harry Potter (not that there’s anything wrong with Harry Potter). So yeah, if you’re a parent of a child using an Amazon Kindle for Kids, go to the parent dashboard and opt out of sharing your child's data!
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 are 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
- Parents should review and adjust the privacy controls for their child's profile.
- Review the content available on your Parent Dashboard.
- Manage Parental Consent page
- Do not sign up with third-party accounts. Better just log in with email and strong password.
Can it snoop on me?
What can be used to sign up?
Parents should look into privacy controls for child profiles.
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 algorythm.
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
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Amazon has a complicated and difficult to navigate mess of privacy policies, privacy notices, privacy FAQs, and other privacy information.
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
You will need to create a Child Profile. https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=G3MTGN25XVMNWTFX
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.
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Amazon Kids+ Terms & ConditionsAmazon
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Privacy Settings FAQs for Fire TV streaming media players, Fire TV Edition devices, Fire tablets and Kindle e-readersAmazon
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