An Alexa for Kids?


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Article by: Richard Nieva, Ben Fox Rubin

After our discussion in class about Google being sued $170 million for targeting advertisements to children, I was reminded that children are affected by their own use of the internet. I found this article a few days after our class discussion and I found it very interesting because smart assistant devices are very popular in the United States. Even though this summer was filled with Apple, Amazon and Google getting in trouble for their devices recording users without their knowledge. This article discusses the new Echo Dot Kids Edition version of Alexa that Amazon plans to sell soon. It discusses how after Google and YouTube were sued for ad targeting, that tech companies are exploiting whoever they can and they get away with it because people don’t always think about their children being data mined to sell things. It raises the point that “children are highly vulnerable internet users” to quote Ashley Boyd, Vice President of Advocacy at Mozilla. Children are unable to understand terms and conditions and they shouldn’t be held accountable to consent to Amazon saving their conversations indefinitely. It’s unfair to assume that a five-year-old using YouTube understands that every time they click a video or answer a question before a video is susceptible to being saved to a server to create a profile, they probably don’t know exists nevertheless how to use it.

Another interesting point brought up in this article is intellectual property regarding audio files. Sound is a topic that many people discuss and especially with the rise of the internet and servers storing data indefinitely. Copyright has been talked about because people want to own quotes and conversations, but when you post a podcast, who owns the content? This article talks about how the collection and use of audio files is something that needs to be discussed because kids shouldn’t have to unknowingly have their conversations kept on record. Once that conversation is kept, it can be distributed to whoever Google or Amazon pleases because they own the file. We need to further discuss intellectual property and how to stop big tech companies from commercializing and capitalizing on what we do and say.

Lastly, this article talked about a campaign called Commercial-Free Childhood which piqued my interest because kids cannot dispute what they don’t know. I think it’s important that there is a group that exists for a generation of kids who grow up with technology, not knowing that it can be used against them or that a company can know anything and everything about who they are from the first day they started to use Alexa, Siri, or YouTube.


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