The season of gift giving is almost here, and nowadays, many children have listed interactive toys and gadgets as some of their must-haves this Christmas. However, reports claim that some of these smart toys pose privacy risks to kids as advocacy groups named two certain toys as capable of sharing children’s secrets on the Internet.
According to CNET, a complaint filed on Tuesday with the US Federal Trade Commission alleges that talking toys My Friend Cayla doll and the i-Que Intelligent Robot are collecting and using information from children, which violate rules that protect children’s privacy. Both are made by Genesis Toys, a company based in Hong Kong with an office in Los Angeles.
The complaint filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood alleges that the toys record conversations and shares the audio files through an app to a remote server operated by Nuance. It was said that this is being done without the parents’ knowledge or consent.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Cayla doll uses speech recognition, a microphone and speakers to understand what the speaker is saying. To activate this feature, the doll is connected to a smartphone device via Bluetooth, and users are asked to download the free English or Spanish app. The app then comes up with appropriate responses to a child’s questions. In the advertisement for the doll, it was claimed that Cayla knows “millions of things” and that children can ask the doll questions about people, places, and other things.
Meanwhile, the i-Que Intelligent Robot allows children to have real-time, two-way conversations, and the toy was the winner of the 2015 Toy Fair Gadget of the Year Award. WSJ reports that for both toys, the documents that are included with the playthings give scant details about what information is collected from children and how it is used.
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood executive director Josh Grolin said that as children form friendships with interactive toys, they will have the tendency to confide intimate details about their lives to them.
“It is critical that the sensitive data collected by these toys are subject to the most stringent protections and not be used for manipulative and sneaky marketing,” Grolin continued.
Genesis Toys has yet to comment on the allegations.