‘Spy’ toys face bite of European and US watchdogs
Consumer watchdogs announced on Tuesday that they are filing complaints against a clutch of smart toys that can “spy” on children and their homes, for allegedly breaching privacy and data protection laws.
The complaints target smart toys My Friend Cayla, i-QUE Intelligent Robot and Hello Barbie, according to the European Consumer Organisation BEUC and groups in the United States like the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Complaints are being filed with French and other European authorities as well as the US Federal Trade Commission.
Internet-connected Cayla and i-QUE, manufactured by Los Angeles-based Genesis Toys, hook up with a user via a phone or tablet while Hello Barbie links to the internet through Wi-Fi, said the consultancy Bouvet on behalf of the Norwegian Consumer Council.
Hello Barbie is not sold in Europe.
“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,” EPIC and other US watchdogs said in their complaint, which they say “concerns toys that spy”.
BEUC, citing the study commissioned by the Norwegian Consumer Council, expressed security concerns.
“With simple steps, anyone can take control of the toys through a mobile phone. This makes it possible to talk and listen through the toy without having physical access to the toy,” it said.
It alleged the terms breach the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive and the EU Data Protection Directive and possibly the Toy Safety Directive.
“Anything the child tells the doll is transferred to the US-based company Nuance Communications, who specialises in speech recognition technologies,” it said.
EPIC and the other US groups like The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood urged the trade commission to investigate the collection, use and disclosure of the data.