The federal agency filed a lawsuit against Amazon several months ago alleging Amazon's Ring doorbell product violated a part of the FTC Act that prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices. Amazon agreed to settle this potential violation by paying $5.8 million in customer refunds. (Related: FTC to sue Amazon for illegally harvesting data of children via smart speakers.)
As part of the settlement, Amazon is also required to delete any customer videos and data collected from an individual's face, referred to as "face embeddings," that the Ring doorbell obtained prior to 2018. It must also delete any work products derived from any of those videos and images.
According to the FTC, Ring compromised customer information by giving third-party contractors access to customer videos even when it was unnecessary for them to perform their jobs. Ring allegedly did not properly implement measures to detect and prevent inappropriate access to customer videos – including many in intimate spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms – until early 2019.
"Because Ring failed to implement basic measures to monitor and detect inappropriate access before February 2019, Ring has no idea how many instances of inappropriate access to customers' sensitive video data actually occurred," alleged the FTC in its complaint.
A separate lawsuit filed by the FTC alleged that Amazon violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by illegally retaining the information of thousands of children through their profiles with the company's internet-connected virtual voice assistant, Alexa. To settle this lawsuit, Amazon agreed to pay $25 million.
According to the FTC, Amazon used the recorded data as an important training dataset for the Alexa algorithm to better respond to kids' voices. Amazon used children's speech patterns to train Alexa to differentiate their voices from adults.
Furthermore, FTC Commissioner Alvado Bedoya alleged that when parents asked Amazon to delete the Alexa voice data of their children, the company refused to honor these requests.
Under the settlement, Amazon will have to delete inactive child accounts and some voice recordings and geolocation information. The tech giant is also barred from using any children's voice data and geolocation information that are subject to deletion requests for creating or improving any data products. Amazon will also have to properly notify users about the government's action against the company and provide them with easy access to requests to retain or delete data stored by Alexa.
Amazon will then have to implement a new privacy program to govern its use of geolocation information.
"Amazon's history of misleading parents, keeping children's recordings indefinitely and flouting parents' deletion requests violated COPPA and sacrificed privacy for profits," said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "COPPA does not allow companies to keep children's data forever for any reason, and certainly not to train their algorithms."
The FTC's commissioners voted unanimously to have both settlements referred to the Department of Justice for filing. The department will have to send these settlements to a court for approval before they can take effect.
Unfortunately, due to a 2021 Supreme Court ruling, the FTC's ability to pursue monetary relief from Amazon for its consumers is limited, and the size of the financial remedies it can impose has been exceptionally narrowed.
In a statement, Amazon said it disagrees with all of the FTC's allegations and denied violating the law. The tech giant said it only agreed to settle the FTC's lawsuit to "put these matters behind us."
"Our devices and services are built to protect customers' privacy and to provide customers with control over their experience," claimed Amazon in a statement.
Learn more about the illegal actions of tech giants like Amazon at BigTech.news.
Watch this video from "The American Journal" on InfoWars discussing how the Amazon Ring allowed strangers to access private camera recordings.