Some Smart Toys Are Spying on Kids and Families

Consumer advocacy groups are suing a toymaker for allegedly using two popular "smart" dolls for kids dolls to illegally collect children's data.

Some Smart Toys Are Spying on Kids and Families Photo by stopabox / Shutterstock.com

Popular talking doll My Friend Cayla looks cute and innocent, but Cayla and fellow smart toy i-Que Intelligent Robot — both made by Genesis Toys Inc. — might be spying on your child.

Cayla and the robot are equipped to secretly record your child’s conversations and send them to a third party without parental consent, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and other consumer and children’s advocacy groups. The complaint states:

By purpose and design, these toys record and collect the private conversations of young children without any limitations on collection, use, or disclosure of this personal information. … They pose an imminent and immediate threat to the safety and security of children in the United States.

The groups allege that recording and storing children’s conversations violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

My Friend Cayla and the i-Que robot have a Bluetooth microphone and speaker as well as accompanying apps that connect to the toys via Bluetooth. The toys’ recorded audio files are sent to a third party — Nuance Communication in Massachusetts, Consumerist reports. Nuance sells voice biometric services to military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The complaint states:

The use of children’s voice and text information to enhance products and services sold to military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies creates a substantial risk of harm because children may be unfairly targeted by these organizations if their voices are inaccurately matched to recordings obtained by these organizations.

The dolls are also easily hackable, says CBS News. A smartphone or tablet within 50 feet of the toy can connect via Bluetooth without having to use an authentication code.

What do you think of the spying smart toy complaint? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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