Business

Amazon and a subsidiary have agreed to pay millions to settle two separate privacy cases against its Alexa and Ring doorbell devices.

Both cases were taken by US government consumer watchdog, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Amazon denies violating the law.

In a case against the Alexa voice assistant, Amazon agreed to pay $25m (£20.1m) to the regulator. The claim raised privacy concerns for children using Alexa.

The FTC said the company failed to delete recordings at the request of parents and kept them longer than necessary.

Amazon told Alexa users voice transcripts and location information would be deleted on request but failed to do so, the FTC said.

A separate complaint was made by the FTC over the Amazon Ring doorbell which allows residents to hear, see, speak to and record callers.

The complaint alleged Amazon employees had unrestricted access to customers’ sensitive video data via Ring.

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A court filing read, “as a result of this dangerously over broad access and lax attitude toward privacy and security, employees and third-party contractors were able to view, download, and transfer customers’ sensitive video data for their own purposes.”

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Under the FTC agreement Ring will pay $5.8m (£4.66m) and is required to disclose to customers how much data access the company and its contractors have.

In February 2019, Ring had changed its policies so that most employees or contractors could only access private customer video with consent.

In response to both settlements, Amazon said: “At Amazon, we take our responsibilities to our customers and their families very seriously. Our devices and services are built to protect customers’ privacy, and to provide customers with control over their experience.”

“While we disagree with the FTC’s claims regarding both Alexa and Ring, and deny violating the law, these settlements put these matters behind us.

“We built Alexa with strong privacy protections and customer controls, designed Amazon Kids to comply with COPPA [Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act], and collaborated with the FTC before expanding Amazon Kids to include Alexa.

“As part of the settlement, we agreed to make a small modification to our already strong practices, and will remove child profiles that have been inactive for more than 18 months unless a parent or guardian chooses to keep them.

“Ring promptly addressed the issues at hand on its own years ago, well before the FTC began its inquiry. Our focus has been and remains on delivering products and features our customers love, while upholding our commitment to protect their privacy and security.”

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