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 MarkeyThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonConservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee Worst-case scenario for House GOP is 70-seat wipeout Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 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 WarnerKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms Russia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless MORE (D-Va.) spoke at a conference on the potential dangers technology can pose to children.

And in January, Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyFacebook to remove over 5K ad target options to curb discrimination Dems want GOP chairman to subpoena State Department over cyber docs Lawmakers sound alarm over Amazon face recognition software MORE (D-Ill.) penned a letter to Apple covering the topic of children and tech.

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