Germany Bans Internet-Connected Doll that Could Spy on Your Kids
Every parent’s nightmare seems to be coming true after it was revealed hackers could easily turn a doll called “My Friend Cayla” into a spying device.
It seems that German regulators have banned the Internet-connected doll, urging parents to disable the interactive toy. “Items that conceal cameras or microphones and that are capable of transmitting a signal, and therefore can transmit data without detection, compromise people’s privacy,” said Jochen Homann, the chief of the Federal Network Agency.
The Agency stressed that this applies in particular to children’s toys, including this Cayla doll which kids can ask questions, waiting for it to look it up online and provide an answer, which is voiced by the doll. There’s also the fact that companies could use the toys to advertise directly to children, which makes the situation even creepier given how vulnerable kids are to such influences.
The warning states that anything a child says can be recorded, alongside with everything else people around the doll say, including private conversations. “If the manufacturer has not adequately protected the wireless connection, the toy can be used by anyone in the vicinity to listen in on conversations undetected,” they add.
Freely collecting data
Genesis Toys, the manufacturer of the doll, says that it regularly reviews the encryption and physical security measures to protect against unauthorized access. On the other hand, even they admit that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage, is 100% sure.
As is, the Cayla doll is programmed not to say, display or utter words or images that are inappropriate for children to see or hear.
The manufacturer notes in its privacy terms that if you’re using the product, you’re allowing them to collect all the information they want, which they not only use to return information to the kids via Google, Wikipedia and Weather Underground, but also to improve their own services, for internal business purposes, and to carry out research, for instance.
On the other hand, we’ve heard countless stories of connected devices being hacked, varying from headphones, to pacemakers, to kids monitoring devices, which makes the situation extra creepy. Of course, if we stopped connecting everything just for the sake of selling a “connected device” life would be easier.