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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC, DOJ sue e-commerce company over child data

Federal Issues Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security FTC DOJ Enforcement COPPA Consumer Protection

Federal Issues

On May 31, the DOJ filed a complaint on behalf of the FTC against a global e-commerce tech company for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA) relating to its smart voice assistant’s data collection and retention practices. While the company repeatedly assured users that they could delete collected voice recordings and geolocation information, the complaint alleged that the company held onto some of this information for years to improve its voice assistant’s algorithm, thus putting the data at risk of harm from unnecessary access. Additionally, the complaint also contended that, for a significant period of time, the company continued to retain transcripts for recordings even after the voice recordings were deleted. According to the complaint, the company failed to provide complete, truthful notice to parents about its deletion practices and lacked an effective system to ensure users’ data deletion requests were honored.

The proposed court order would require the company to pay a $25 million civil money penalty and would prohibit the company from using geolocation and voice to create or improve any of its data products after a deletion request. The company would also be required to (i) delete any inactive smart voice assistant children’s accounts; (ii) notify users about its data retention and deletion practices and controls; and (iii) implement a privacy program specific to its use of users’ geolocation information, among other things.