The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Seattle claims the voice-controlled virtual assistant devices permanently records millions of children without their consent or parents’ consent.
It claims the devices can identify individual voices and Amazon could ask for consent when a new person uses the device.
“Detention of innocent children should never occur in a civilized society, especially if there are less restrictive options, because the risk of harm to children simply cannot be justified,” they wrote.
…”Each passing day of continued detention of children — and no acknowledgment of the risk that we have reported — alarms me even more,” Allen told CNN in a recent interview.
…Allen and McPherson say they documented their concerns numerous times in reports filed with the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, and felt like the people in power were listening. But they say two things prompted them to speak more publicly about the matter after Trump took office: the spike in family separations at the border and moves to increase family detention rather than scale it back.
- Significant weight loss in children that went largely unnoticed by the facility medical staff, including a 16-month-old baby who lost nearly a third of his body weight over 10 days during a diarrheal disease but was never given IV fluids or sent to an emergency room.
- A 27-day-old baby who had a seizure from bleeding inside his skull that was missed by the facility on arrival.
- Numerous children who suffered severe finger injuries while confined in a facility that was designed as a medium-security prison for adults.
“This is not a story about people in these facilities not caring about children. … It is about good people trying to keep children safe in an environment that’s very dangerous to them by design, if not intent. And they’ve been asked to execute deeply flawed and I would even say mean-spirited policies, and to do so in such a way that minimizes harms to children,” Allen says. “It’s an impossible task.”
“Even if you could pour money and resources into properly staffing these facilities and giving them programming,” Allen says, “the simple act of detaining and indefinite detention … is irreparably harmful to children.”
…And while they’ve been lauded by colleagues and friends, there are two things McPherson and Allen say haven’t happened since they wrote their first letter to Congress.
The doctors haven’t been asked to inspect any family detention facilities again.
And the government’s family detention policies haven’t changed.
…In budget requests, officials have repeatedly outlined plans to increase family detention capacity. The White House’s proposed 2020 budget includes a plan to expand capacity to 10,000 family detention beds, a request that would quadruple the number of beds currently funded.
…”The practice of detaining children and families is no longer an issue of policy dispute,” they wrote in their March letter to Congress. “It is a willful policy that knowingly inflicts serious harm to children, including risk of death.”
The doctors say the problems detailed in their letters illustrate how difficult it is to provide care to vulnerable children in relatively small detention facilities.
“Now you take that, and you try to rapidly upscale it. This is going to be a disaster,” Allen says.
…Because of policy decisions, Allen says, children and families are placed in confinement first, with appropriate triage and medical care occurring later.
“That’s exactly the wrong way to do it,” he says. “As doctors, we say, triage them, make sure they’re safe, make sure they’re healthy, and then put them through the process of asylum.”
… “Our goal is to protect children. But if we fail them, we sure as hell want to leave a written record for history that documents who is notified of an impending harm to children — and who did nothing about it.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights requires that school districts report every time a student is restrained or secluded. And while tens of thousands of cases are reported, many suspect those numbers fall short.
…For years, Fairfax County Public Schools also told the government that it never secluded or restrained students. But the WAMU investigation found hundreds of cases recorded in internal documents and letters that schools sent to parents.
…Teachers are coached to empathize with students and think about what someone would need if they were having a bad day.
“Most people would say [they need] space, someone to be kind to me, maybe to read a book … go for a walk,” Sanders says. “No one is going to say, ‘Well actually, I need someone to hold me against my will or lock me in a room by myself.’
Decades ago, as my mom lay recovering from labor in a San Francisco hospital, a group of social workers gently suggested she consider giving me and my sister up for adoption. At first the arrangement was framed as temporary—a fancy version of foster care by a wealthy white family apparently eager to look after a set of brown babies. As they saw it, my mother was woefully ill-equipped to care for her new twins. After all, she was white and Jewish, my dad was black and Baptist, and my parents were unmarried—and would forever stay that way.
Even in the City of Love (during the era of love) it was assumed my mom—despite being educated, employed, and well past 30—wouldn’t be able to raise us on her own. Our “best interests,” these women insisted, lay with them and the government and a future family they assured her would take good care of us. Or at least better care of us than they figured she could.
…She described these social workers as an insistent bunch who paid her repeated visits—including a few after she took us home to her tiny studio apartment at the foot of San Francisco Bay.
…She instinctively knew that their assurances of “short-term” and “temporary” care were completely bogus—that full-fledged adoption was the ultimate goal, and she was having none of it. Still, I’m sure they made some headway, what with their promises of the grand homes and two-parent lifestyles my mother knew she could never deliver. Sow the seeds of doubt hard and long enough and you can gaslight even the toughest among us.