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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning parents about internet-connected toys, which can enable opportunities for child identity fraud.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recently issued a notice to consumers about privacy and safety concerns associated with smart toys and other children’s entertainment devices that connect to the internet. These concerns stem from the facts that such toys can collect personal information and access the internet.
Smart toys are able to collect personal information because they generally feature technology such as:
- Data storage
- Speech recognition
- GPS options
For example, toys with microphones potentially could record not just a child’s voice interactions with the toy, but also other conversations that happen near the toy. The FBI explains:
“Information such as the child’s name, school, likes and dislikes, and activities may be disclosed through normal conversation with the toy or in the surrounding environment.”
Additionally, personal information is generally requested when you set up a user account for a smart toy. This can include:
- Date of birth
From there, smart-toy companies collect “large amounts of additional data,” the FBI says, noting:
“The exposure of such information could create opportunities for child identity fraud. Additionally, the potential misuse of sensitive data such as GPS location information, visual identifiers from pictures or videos, and known interests to garner trust from a child could present exploitation risks.”
The FBI offers a lot of tips to help you reduce such risks. First, do your homework on internet-connected toys. For example, you should research:
- Any known reported security issues.
- The toy’s security measures for connecting to the internet and to other devices.
- If your toys can receive updates and security patches. If they can, ensure your toys are running on the most updated versions and any available patches are implemented.
- Where user data is stored — by the manufacturer or third-party services — and how it is protected.
In addition, carefully read disclosures and privacy policies from the manufacturer and any third parties.
Then, be aware of how smart toys are used by your household. For example:
- Connect toys only to trusted, secured Wi-Fi networks.
- Provide as little personal information as possible when setting up user accounts.
- Use strong, unique login passwords for user accounts.
- Use a password or PIN when connecting the toy to another device via Bluetooth.
- Closely monitor children’s activity, such as conversations, with the toys.
- Ensure the toy is turned off when not in use.
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