Do personal assistant devices violate children’s data privacy?

von Veronica Mino

It has recently been argued that personal assistants like Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Home could violate children’s data privacy inasmuch as they record and store children’s voices and questions while processing their requests and keep such data on storage to “improve the customer’s experience”.

An article[1] published by the British Newspaper The Guardian on Thursday May 26th calls attention to the fact that this kind of devices could contravene the USA Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act[2] as long as their marketing strategies seem to suggest that they are aimed at families with small children.

The USA Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), in place since 2000, is aimed at the protection of children’s privacy through the requirement of verifiable parental consent for the collection of information of children under 13 on the part of websites. The COPPA covers operators of websites directed to children under 13 and also, those directed to general audiences when they have “actual knowledge” that they’re collecting personal information from users under 13 years of age. It also applies to operators, when they have “actual knowledge” they are collecting personal information from users of another site or online service directed to kids under 13, which means that under certain circumstances, the COPPA could also apply to third parties.

An explanatory note on the applicability of the COPPA rule, published by the Federal Trade Commission[3], explicitly explains that “the Rule doesn’t require operators of sites or services directed to general audiences to investigate the ages of its users, “however, asking for or otherwise collecting information that establishes that a visitor is under 13 triggers COPPA compliance”[4] ...

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