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Amazon’s Echo for kids accused of saving information — even when asked to forget – National

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Amazon’s Echo for kids accused of saving information — even when asked to forget National

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Amazon has come under fire once again over privacy practices related to its Alexa voice assistant software.

On Thursday, privacy advocates in the U.S. said the kids’ version of Amazon’s Alexa won’t forget what children tell it — even after parents try to delete the conversations.

That’s why they’re asking the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday to investigate whether it violates children’s privacy laws.

READ MORE: Amazon’s Alexa is randomly laughing at people, and the company is trying to fix it

A coalition of groups led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Representation is filing a formal complaint with the FTC alleging that Amazon is violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA, by holding onto a child’s personal information longer than is reasonably necessary.

In one video example advocates posted online, a child asks the device to remember some personal information, including her walnut allergy.

WATCH: Amazon staff can listen to private conversations through Alexa





An adult later tries to delete all that information, which includes the voice recordings and written transcripts associated with them. But then, when the child asks what Alexa remembers, it still recalls that she’s allergic to walnuts.

“This suggests that Amazon has designed the Echo Dot Kids Edition so that it can never forget what the child has said to it,” the complaint says.

Amazon has denied the allegations, saying the Echo Dot Kids Edition is compliant with COPPA.

While it’s unclear whether the FTC will take up the investigation, the probe does have the backing of some senators.

READ MORE: Alexa recorded one family’s conversations and sent them to a friend, without them knowing

Senators Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Dick Durbin and Josh Hawley asked for the probe on Thursday, saying the product doesn’t comply with privacy laws.

“Children are a uniquely vulnerable population,” the senators wrote in the letter.

“We urge the commission to take all necessary steps to ensure their privacy as ‘internet of things’ devices targeting young consumers come to market, including promptly initiating an investigation into the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition’s compliance with COPPA.”

The Amazon Echo for kids was launched about a year ago with the company promising strict parental controls on the device.

WATCH: Amazon Alexa suffered a Christmas crash in Europe amid a surge in new users





Cybersecurity expert Ajay Sood, who is the general manager of Symantec Canada, told Global News that while Amazon has faced privacy criticism over Alexa before, it’s particularly concerning this time.

“Adults, generally speaking, have the ability to protect themselves and to defend their rights,” he said.

“If you’re a minor and your privacy violated, you can’t litigate, you can’t sue, you can’t really take them to court.”

Sood added that while, technically, there is an onus on parents to protect children, it is a company’s responsibility to be ethical and follow laws.

“This stuff is being marketed to parents. A lot of folks just believe what they’re told. They’re buying into the marketing surrounding these products,” he explained, noting that companies also know that customers won’t read lengthy instructions or terms and conditions.

“You can’t expect the parent to have a constant eye over the shoulder on every cellphone, every iPad, every Amazon transaction,” he added.

Previous concerns over Alexa

This is far from the first time that Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has come under the microscope due to privacy concerns.

In May 2018, a Portland woman said her family’s Amazon Echo recorded her conversations then sent them to a random contact without any human direction.

READ MORE: Amazon Alexa sent a user’s 1,700 audio files to a stranger due to ‘human error’

She said she only found out about the recording when she got a phone call from the person who received the recordings, who was an employee of her husband’s.

In December last year, another user of the voice assistant in Germany got access to more than a thousand recordings from another user because of “a human error” by the company.

The customer had asked to listen back to recordings of his own activities made by Alexa, but he was also able to access 1,700 audio files from a stranger when Amazon sent him a link.

—With files from the Associated Press and Reuters

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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