FTC Fines Amazon ‘Meaningless’ Amount for Shocking Privacy Violations

June 2nd, 2023 6:26 PM

Amazon appears to be batting a thousand on failing to protect user data. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the Big Tech giant to pay millions of dollars in two separate civil penalties after a federal court found that the company was caught mishandling the sensitive information of children who use Alexa and users of Ring doorbells.

One of the claims, filed by both the FTC and the Department of Justice, resulted in a fine of $25 million. The federal government claimed Amazon illegally hoarded the Alexa voice recordings of children to use for its own algorithm, violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). While the company assured parents that voice recordings saved within Alexa could be deleted, it continued to store some of the information for years.

In a statement shared on its website, the FTC said the settlement “will require Amazon to overhaul its deletion practices and implement stringent privacy safeguards.”

The fines are just a drop in a very large bucket for the anti-free speech company whose Amazon Web Services division once banned fledgling free speech app Parler from accessing its servers. Reacting to the news, MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider called  Amazon “evil” but warned that the “meaningless” fines are the equivalent of just “.0000198 of Amazon’s $1.26 trillion market cap.”

Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement on the Alexa case that Amazon deliberately lied to parents about the status of their deletion requests.

“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated” the child privacy law and “sacrificed privacy for profits,” Levine said. “COPPA does not allow companies to keep children’s data forever for any reason, and certainly not to train their algorithms.”

​Amazon denied violating federal law but contradicted itself by agreeing to a $25 million settlement, which requires the company to delete the voice recordings of minors as well as any inactive Alexa accounts belonging to children. 

The Alexa fine was not the first million-dollar blow to the company this week. In a separate complaint, the FTC accused Amazon’s home security camera service, Ring, of “egregious” privacy violations.” The FTC claimed that the company allowed employees to illegally spy on customers using the camera and also allowed hackers to access users’ accounts. The company was fined a minuscule $5.8 million to settle the Ring claim, leaving a total of $30.8 million in fines for privacy violations.

MRC Free Speech America has long warned about potential privacy violations from Amazon. In 2019, the company admitted to hiring employees to listen in on what users said to Alexa. Talk about creepy!

Conservatives are under attack. Call up Amazon at 1 (888) 280-4331 and demand that it not violate the privacy of its users and that it mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on so-called hate speech and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.