- by cnn
- 29 Nov 2023
Amazon has agreed to pay more than $30 million to settle two federal lawsuits alleging that the tech giant violated users' privacy - including that of children - through its Alexa voice assistant and its Ring doorbell cameras.
The twin settlements Wednesday with the Federal Trade Commission highlight claims that Amazon retained Ring videos and Alexa voice recordings, along with related geolocation information, for years - in some cases without consent and despite requests by consumers for the data to be deleted.
In addition, the FTC alleged that lax data policies at Amazon meant that the information could often be accessed by unauthorized parties - and often was, in the case of Ring doorbell footage.
Amazon acquired Ring in 2018, paving the way for the e-commerce giant to get into the home security business. In addition to video doorbells, Ring makes indoor and outdoor security cameras as well as alarm systems.
In a complaint accompanying the settlement, the FTC claimed Ring gave employees unrestricted access to videos from customers' home security systems. In one instance, the complaint states, a Ring employee viewed thousands of video recordings from at least 81 female users between June and August 2017, viewing cameras that users had assigned to bathrooms and bedrooms. An initial misconduct report by a fellow employee was not taken seriously, the complaint said.
"Only after the supervisor noticed that the male employee was only viewing videos of 'pretty girls' did the supervisor escalate the report of misconduct," the FTC alleged in the complaint. "Only at that point did Ring review a portion of the employee's activity and, ultimately, terminate his employment."
The complaint against Ring also recounts numerous alleged instances of hacked cameras allowing malicious actors to speak to victims, causing distress. Many of these attacks allegedly occurred through successful guessing of user passwords, reflecting failures by Amazon to require strong password protections, according to the complaint.
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