Freshman Lawmaker Has Questions For Amazon

Two lawmakers are raising concerns about the most recent version of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker, which is designed especially for children.

On Friday, Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Congressman Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with several questions about the new Echo Dot Kids Edition.

Last year, Markey and Barton — co-founders of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus — wrote a letter to toy manufacturer Mattel (MAT) with concerns about its “Aristotle” merchandise. The WiFi-enabled toy featured audio and visual monitoring for children. The business stopped selling the device.
Includes 12 questions regarding the Echo Dot Kids Edition, the $79.99 gadget that plays kid-friendly music, answers questions and includes parental controls, such as time constraints for use. This week, the apparatus began shipping.

The lawmakers asked Bezos if Amazon Maintains a data profile on each child and how much time the company keeps records and other information collected by the device.

Connected: Amazon unveils colorful Echo Dot for youngsters

“While these kinds of artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology offer potentially new education and entertainment opportunities, Americans’ privacy, particularly children’s privacy, must be paramount,” Markey and Barton wrote in the letter. “There is also increasing concern about the effects of electronic media and technology use among kids and teens.”

To address privacy concerns Tech giant said it doesn’t share children’ information with third parties such as advertisers. Parents can also listen to archives of their child’s voice requests through the Alexa app and delete them.

In response to the letter, Amazon said technology is not a replacement for social or parenting connection.

“One of the terrific things about Alexa and Echo is the communal nature of this device — parents and kids can join in the learning and fun together,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Parents can review Activity on the Parent Dashboard from FreeTime Unlimited, which offers access to kid-friendly books and ad-free radio stations. The The spokesperson also said parents can pause the apparatus “whenever they would like.”

“We think one of the core advantages of FreeTime and
With a “handful” of advocacy groups, such as Family Online Safety Institude (FOSI) and child development experts from Yale and the University of Washington, in addition to local Seattle pediatricians and researchers, to develop the Echo Kids Edition.

In a separate Statement on Friday, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and many child development experts also cautioned parents about the device.

“Amazon wants children to be dependent on its own data-gathering device from the moment they wake up until they go to bed at night,” said CCFC’s Executive Director Josh Golin.

Related: Health experts urge Facebook to shut down Messenger Kids

Experts also expressed concern about privacy and the device interfering with face-to-face connections and a child’s play time and healthy development.

“Amazon is acting irresponsibly by urging parents To unleash an AI-driven Alexa product in their children’s lives, without first ensuring that it won’t harm their cognitive and psychological development,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the CDD.

In January, the CCFC directed an effort to shut down Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, Which is aimed at six to 12 year olds. Over a dozen organizations and about 100 health experts sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stating the new chat app will probably harm a child’s healthy development. Facebook (FB) has stated it has no plans to shutter the program.

Formerly, the CCFC successfully stopped McDonald’s from advertisements On report card envelopes and convinced the NFL to stop a Contentious online fantasy football game for children.

Scott J. Cooper

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