Amazon’s surveillance and home-based devices have been criticized by privacy advocates. Recently, Amazon discussed creating a wearable device that would be powered by Alexa for children.
According to Bloomberg documents, Seeker, the GPS-equipped device would be targeted at children aged 4-12 years. It could come in the form of a clip, key ring, or bracelet. Voice-activated devices would allow access to Amazon’s children and enable parents to communicate with their children.
Amazon had begun to explore the idea of the device in mid-1999 as part of its 2020 product roadmap. It is not clear how far it has advanced.
This isn’t Amazon’s first venture into the market to attract younger customers. Amazon has attempted to create several products with Alexa that are targeted at children. According to these documents, the arrival of a Disney-branded portable device, codenamed “Magic Band”, is planned for this year. It is unclear if the device is a toy, or related to the guest tracking Magic bracelet that Disney uses at its parks and hotels.
Both companies have already collaborated in different ways. Amazon’s cloud computing division powers Disney + streaming. Amazon also offered subscribers to its music service several months free Disney + earlier this year.
Amazon also had plans to launch an Alexa powered karaoke microphone dubbed Jackson during Prime Day. However, that device did not show up at the annual rendezvous which took place last month.
This Seeker, a product aimed at children, was to be sold by the e-commerce giant for just $80. It included wireless connectivity, 1 year access to FreeTime Unlimited, and has since been renamed Kids +.
A subscription costs $2.99 per month, which is approximately $2.53. It allows you to access books, movies and television programs aimed at children. Parents can also set time limits or filter content according to their child’s age.
Amazon’s new consumer hardware ambitions would include a child-oriented device. The company’s fitness band, Halo, was launched last year. It can track a wearer’s sleep, physical activity, body fat, mood, and sleep patterns. A home robot is also being developed by the company.
Legislators and consumer rights groups have in the past criticised Amazon’s policies to protect privacy, particularly on devices that are aimed at children.
The Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Trade-Free Childhood filed a complaint with US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019. They claimed that Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition violated the privacy rights of children by collecting data without consent from their parents.
Also, the complaint stated that the company kept the recordings of the device indefinitely, unless a parent requested their removal. Users also found it difficult to review the information that the devices had collected.
Several US senators then asked the FTC for an investigation into whether Amazon had violated Children’s Internet Privacy Protection Act by using the device. Amazon stated that it was following the law at the time and it lists the steps it took to protect the privacy rights of FreeTime subscribers on its corporate website.
Amazon introduced new privacy tools in fall 2019. This includes a feature that lets users automatically delete Alexa recordings on an ongoing basis.
These privacy enhancements were in response to a Bloomberg story that claimed thousands of Amazon employees around the globe were listening to audio clips from Alexa devices. According to the company, they did this to improve the response patterns to voice commands.