Toy Dolls Discovered to be Recording Conversations, Violate Privacy Laws

Privacy advocacy groups are warning of certain internet-connected toy dolls using voice recognition technology subjecting users to ongoing surveillance without prior disclosure. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission regarding toys such as Genesis Toy’s My Friend Cayla Doll and the i-Que Robot which have features that violate privacy as well as consumer protection laws and request that the toys be pulled off the store shelves. Nuance Communications, the speech technology provider for the toys are also named in the complaint. Cayla and i-Que Robot are internet-connected toys that talk and interact with children by capturing and recording children’s communications and analyzing the recordings to determine the words spoken. These voice recordings are stored and used for a variety of purposes beyond providing for the toys’ functionality.

Paired with these toys are also mobile companion apps interfacing with the toys via Bluetooth which also have their own set of privacy concerns as well. The My Friend Cayla Doll toy app for example asks children to provide personal information including their name and parent’s name as well as the name of the school they attend and asks for the name of the place they live in. The My Friend Cayla companion app asks for access to hardware, storage, microphone, WiFi and Bluetooth connections and the i-QUe companion app even requests access to the device camera although it is not necessary to the toy’s functions. The Cayla companion app also asks user to set the physical location. Both access clearance are not sufficiently justified according to EPIC. Although Nuance Communications Vice President Richard Mack has assured the public in a statement that the collected information are not sold to 3rd party groups or used for marketing purposes, the fact that the My Friend Cayla Doll has built-in pro-Disney marketing propaganda by referencing Disney movies and Disney Theme parks in its speech raises concern about this validity.

“The FTC should issue a recall on the dolls and halt further sales pending the resolution of the privacy and safety risks identified in the complaint, this is already happening in the European Union, where Dutch stores have pulled the toys from their shelves. said Claire Gartland, director of EPIC’s Consumer Privacy Project.


Ron Perillo

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