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 MarkeyGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing We can have a Green New Deal, and air travel too MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonGOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Privacy legislation could provide common ground for the newly divided Congress Texas New Members 2019 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 WarnerSchiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (D-Va.) spoke at a conference on the potential dangers technology can pose to children.

And in January, Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyWorries mount as cybersecurity agency struggles amid shutdown Hillicon Valley: Apple cutting iPhone production | Senior citizens more likely to share fake news on Facebook | Graham says AG nominee will let Mueller finish probe | Dems warn shutdown hurting IT recruitment Hillicon Valley: Marriott cuts breach estimates, but says millions of passports exposed | Los Angeles sues Weather Channel app over data collection | Bill would create office to fight Chinese threats to US tech | German politicians hit by major breach MORE (D-Ill.) penned a letter to Apple covering the topic of children and tech.

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