It’s common for this generation to be familiar with artificial intelligence. Nowadays every mobile device comes with Siri, Google Talk or some other type of voice-activated artificial intelligence. Well herein lies the problem. The United States has a Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). A law set up to control the collection and use of personal information from anyone younger than 13 years of age.
According to an investigation conducted by the Guardian Newspaper, Google’s new “Home” virtual assistant device, Amazon’s “Echo” device and Apple’s “Siri” face millions of dollars in fines due to breaking the federal child protection privacy law. The paper pointed out that all these voice-activated artificial intelligence systems are currently marketed at children. The Echo, which is supported by Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, Google’s Home supported by “assistant,” and Apple’s Siri, are particularly marketed towards children.
In their promotional videos, all these systems use children most likely younger than 13 years as their primary cast. The Echo’s promotional video showcases a preteen girl asking her father about the device stating “is this for me.” The promotional video for Google Home broadcasted a young girl and her younger brother in their attempt to advertise for the “whole family.” Siri is not excluded in this dilemma as their ad shows a little girl asking Siri some questions. They’ve even televised an ad with Siri and the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.
Most likely illegal according to the paper, as these systems are probably violating COPPA. A law that applies to internet services developed for users below the age 13. Although some might find these advertisements very cute, Khaliah Barnes, the associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) disagrees. “Recording children in the privacy of the home is genuinely creepy, and this warrants additional investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) she says.
Jeff Chester, executive director of privacy group the Center for Digital Democracy, said “This is part of the initial wave of marketing to children using the internet of things. It is exactly why the law was enacted in the first place, to protect young people from pervasive data collection.”
Do Other Corporations Comply To Child Privacy Laws?
Microsoft and Xbox comply by limiting services to users younger than 13 years of age. For example, Microsoft prohibits users who’re profile indicates an age younger than 13 to access Cortana Virtual Assistant. Xbox takes it even a step further as parents have to make a credit card payment in order to activate voice and video services. So why are these global conglomerates not on the same page?
Well, these multimillion dollar companies disagree with the allegations. According to the Guardian, Apple, Amazon, and Google have all said that they complied with COPPA. A spokesperson for Apple even said, “they do not target kids.”
Advertising aside, the law clearly states that the personal information of children cannot be stored without parental consent. According to the paper, the three million dollar companies use some form of cloud to store audio files, and none of them abide by COPPA in seeking parental consent.
Therefore, fines can accumulate to roughly $16,000 per violation. Not long ago in 2014, Yelp paid $450,000 due to collecting kids personal information without parental consent.