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Amazon Accused of Violating Kids’ Privacy with Alexa

There has been no official statement from FTC on the subject as yet

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The Amazon warehouse in San Fernando de Henares is seen during a 3-day walkout to demand better wages and working conditions, on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. VOA

US Senators and a group of 19 consumer and public health advocates have accused Amazon for recording and saving conversations that take place around its smart speakers, urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate into the case.

The complaint alleges Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition smart speaker of being in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), CNN reported late on Thursday.

Launched last year, the device features a kid-friendly version of Alexa which plays music, reads stories and answers questions to kids.

As part of the complaint, Senators Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Dick Durbin and Josh Hawley claim that “Amazon does not comply with COPPA’s requirement of parental consent and does not allow parents to adequately delete their children’s information from the device”.

Children welfare organisations like the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Centre for Digital Democracy have also asked the FTC to look into the matter.

Reacting to the allegations, the e-commerce giant said it not only worked closely with organisations like the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) while developing Echo Dot Kids Edition but also followed industry’s best practices for securing verifiable parental consent.

Amazon Alexa. Flickr
Amazon Alexa. Flickr

“Specific to Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime on Alexa, we want you to know that Kid skills in Amazon FreeTime do not collect personal information and we require verifiable parental consent from all customers before enabling FreeTime on Alexa,” the company wrote in a blog post.

Launched seven years ago, Amazon FreeTime service helps parents manage the ways their kids interact with technology, including limiting screen time.

The post also highlighted that the company allows parents to review and delete any voice recordings at any time in the Alexa App or on the company website.

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“We provide access to our Children’s Privacy Disclosure where parents can visit at any time in the Alexa App or on our website. Children’s privacy is important to Amazon,” the post noted.

There has been no official statement from FTC on the subject as yet.

In May 2018, Senetor Markey and then-Congressman Joe Barton sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with questions about the product asking whether or not Amazon maintains data profile of each child and how long their recordings and information are kept. (IANS)

Next Story

Reliance Retail Set to Disrupt Amazon, Walmart-Flipkart

The eCommerce competition in India remains fierce

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Reliance Jio. Source: www.reliancejio.website

Reliance Retail’s upcoming entry into the online retail sector is the biggest challenge for Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart as the Mukesh Ambani-led behemoth is well positioned to create massive disruption in the market, a new report has stressed.

According to the global market research firm Forrester, the online retail sales in India will grow at a five-year CAGR of 25.8 per cent to reach $85 billion by 2023, despite the hiccups of demonetization in 2016, GST in 2017 and the governmental changes in eCommerce policy announced last December.

The time is ripe for Reliance Retail, which operates 10,415 stores in more than 6,600 cities, with 500 million annual footfalls – giving the company the kind of scale required to swiftly launch India-based operations.

“One of the things that will trouble Amazon and Flipkart is Reliance’s history of launching operations via massive discounts,” Satish Meena, senior forecast analyst at Forrester Research, said on Tuesday.

Reliance entered the telecom sector in 2003 with the Monsoon Hungama tariff plan, which brought tariffs for voice calls down to just Rs 0.40 a minute from the existing rate of Rs 2 a minute, followed by the launch of Jio 4G plan in 2016 that dropped data rates from Rs 250 per GB to Rs 50 per GB.

“This kind of discounting can disrupt any market, and we expect something similar to happen in the grocery space during Reliancea¿s launch,” Meena added.

Reliance is fast working on creating the world’s largest online-to-offline New Commerce Platform, according to Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries.

“Due to the recent changes in eCommerce policy and the restrictions on an inventory-led model for marketplaces with FDI, Reliance Retail is finding a favourable policy environment to launch operations where it can use its existing retail infrastructure to deliver goods to customers,” the Forrester report noted.

Reliance launched the food and grocery app among its employees in April 2019 to prepare for the commercial launch later in the year.

Reliance Retail is the largest retailer in India, with $18.7 billion in revenue during financial year 2019, and it grew at a CAGR of 55 per cent in the last five years.

Reliance Retail had $81 billion in revenue and $9.4 billion in profit during 2019.

e-commerce
Security guards stand at the reception desk of the Amazon India office in Bengaluru, India, Aug. 14, 2015. VOA

“This gives Reliance Retail access to long-term capital from the conglomerate, which has a presence in energy, petrochemicals, telecom, textiles, retail, and natural resources,” said Forrester.

Reliance Retail also has a portfolio of over 40 brands, from the midmarket to premium segments and including Hamleys (which the company has acquired for Rs 620 crore) and Marks & Spencer.

“These can provide a boost to the fashion and lifestyle segment, which will be the largest category by online spending in the coming years,” said the report.

Reliance launched its mobile business at the end of 2015, and by April 2019, it had over 300 million mobile subscribers a” making it the third-largest player in a short span of time.

Jio is building on these mobile subscribers by investing in related services to create an ecosystem that gives customers access to rich content and payments options.

This ecosystem will be available for Reliance Retail to build on.

To compete with Amazon and Flipkart, Reliance will have to significantly improve the customer experience, both in stores and on its online channel, because discounts and cashbacks will not generate loyalty for online customers a” as we saw in the Paytm Mall case.

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“Removal of discounts may lead to a significant loss of buyers from the platform. The positioning of the Reliance platform and its fulfilment will play a critical role in the fight against Amazon and Flipkart,” emphasised the Forrester report.

The eCommerce competition in India remains fierce.

Amazon has been the most popular online retailer since it surpassed Flipkart in 2016, although Flipkart is still the single-largest online retailer, with 31.9 per cent market share in 2018 (38.4 per cent if you include Myntra and Jabong), closely followed by Amazon at 31 per cent. (IANS)