Consumer Alert: The FTC says Amazon violated your privacy – now what?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Do you have a Ring camera system? How about an Alexa? Then your privacy may have been violated. So says the FTC. Amazon is having to pay up to the tune of almost $31 million. The FTC has slapped the company with $25 million in civil penalties for Alexa privacy violations, and ordered $5.8 million in refunds to Ring customers.

The FTC says Ring gave employees unrestricted access to the video on our security cameras. In one case, a Ring employee concentrated on cameras in bedrooms and bathrooms, viewing thousands of videos of women in their own homes.

The FTC also says Ring’s security of its own security systems was so lax, hackers could easily break into home camera systems and torment the homeowners by speaking to them through the system’s microphone. So Ring, which is owned by Amazon, has agreed to put new data security protocols in place and refund customers almost $6 million. After a judge approves the settlement, we should learn more about how those refunds will be dispersed.

The FTC says Amazon’s Alexa violated your kids’ privacy by keeping recordings of their voices for years. The company allegedly used their voices to train its A.I. algorithm to better recognize and respond to the voices of children. But the FTC says that’s a clear violation of COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The settlement requires Amazon to delete all recording and geolocation data according to consumers’ requests. So if you have a Ring security system or Alexa, here’s Deanna’s Do List to protect your privacy:

· Check your privacy settings. and permissions.Most systems require you to opt out… so do so.

· Secure your home security cameras by using a strong password and making sure your firewall is on.

· The FTC says we all need to make sure your wireless network is encrypted with WPA2 or WPA3.

· Protect your child’s privacy online by following the FTC’s guidance.

Click here for steps to assure your router is encrypted with WPA3.

While Amazon agreed to the settlement, it insists the agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing.

An Amazon spokesperson emailed News10NBC’s Deanna Dewberry the following statement:

At Amazon, we take our responsibilities to our customers and their families very seriously. Our devices and services are built to protect customers’ privacy, and to provide customers with control over their experience. While we disagree with the FTC’s claims regarding both Alexa and Ring, and deny violating the law, these settlements put these matters behind us.

We built Alexa with strong privacy protections and customer controls, designed Amazon Kids to comply with COPPA, and collaborated with the FTC before expanding Amazon Kids to include Alexa. As part of the settlement, we agreed to make a small modification to our already strong practices, and will remove child profiles that have been inactive for more than 18 months unless a parent or guardian chooses to keep them.

Ring promptly addressed the issues at hand on its own years ago, well before the FTC began its inquiry. Our focus has been and remains on delivering products and features our customers love, while upholding our commitment to protect their privacy and security.”