Los Angeles, CA — Consumer Watchdog today called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and take action against Amazon for deceptively recording consumers and their children with its Echo digital assistant. Consumer Watchdog requested the investigation for the second time in two years, following a formal complaint in December of 2017 based on its study that showed Amazon and Google had submitted patents to spy on its customers when the devices were supposed to not be on.
The 2017 study, “Home Invasion,” found an Amazon patent on deriving sentiments and behaviors from ambient speech, even when a user has not addressed the device. It also found patents for listening for flushed toilets, inferring children’s misbehavior, and marketing kids at their bedside.
In response to Consumer Watchdog’s 2017 study, Amazon and Google claimed that their patent applications were only exploratory and that the digital assistants only recorded conversations after being intentionally triggered. Recent news reports reveal that Amazon misled the public because its smart devices are recording conversations even when unprompted by the wake word “Alexa.”
“Amazon has misrepresented its products to the public and in the media, and the FTC should take immediate action,” said Senior Consumer Watchdog Advocate Adam Scow. “It shouldn’t be okay to lie to the American public about spying on them in their homes.”
Consumer Watchdog’s patent study can be found here:
Read Consumer Watchdog’s 2017 complaint here:
Consumer Watchdog’s current letter can be read here:
In today’s letter to FTC Chairman Simons, Consumer Watchdog wrote:
“As described in our original complaint letter, Google and Amazon filed for patents regarding uses for the devices which reveal plans for massive surveillance of users’ homes. The applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revealed a vision for an Orwellian future in which digital assistants eavesdrop on everything from conversations to your toilet flushing habits to children’s movements and the books on bedside tables.”
Consumer Watchdog called for an official investigation:
“We urge you to undertake an immediate investigation of Amazon and take action to protect consumers. These privacy invading devices are being pushed into homes under false pretenses, which would be an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”
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