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Lawmakers press Amazon over child privacy protections in new Echo

Lawmakers press Amazon over child privacy protections in new Echo
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A pair of lawmakers on Friday pressed Amazon to provide answers about child privacy protections for a new product meant for children.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOcasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonLobbying world Bottom line Ex-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street MORE (R-Texas), who co-chair the Congressional Privacy Caucus, are asking Amazon to detail how it handles privacy concerns on its Echo Dot Kids Edition, a digital voice-operated assistant similar to the company's Echo.

“We write to seek information about how Amazon plans to protect the privacy of children who use Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition and what steps the company is taking to ensure that using this product will not negatively affect children’s development,” they wrote in a letter to the company.

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In their letter, the lawmakers press Amazon on whether audio from children’s interactions with the Echo Dot would be saved and if so whether parents or third parties would have access to such data, among other issues.

“While these types of artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology offer potentially new education and entertainment opportunities, Americans’ privacy, particularly children’s privacy, must be paramount,” the lawmakers wrote.

Amazon said in a statement that it takes "privacy and security seriously."

"We received the letter this morning and will be working directly with the Senator's office to address each question," an Amazon spokesperson said, explaining that the kids' version of the Echo Dot will allow parents full control over voice recordings on the device, won't use recordings for advertising or give them to third-parties and gives users the ability to fully disconnect the device's microphone. 

Markey and Barton's letter follows an uptick in attention earlier this year to how technology can impact children.

In February, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference Intel officials say Iran, Russia seeking to influence election Senate Intel leaders warn of election systems threats MORE (D-Va.) spoke at a conference on the potential dangers technology can pose to children.

And in January, Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyRep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair Hillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats MORE (D-Ill.) penned a letter to Apple covering the topic of children and tech.

This story was updated at 6:25 p.m.