I try not to get paranoid about technology and how our rights and freedoms can be compromised by it. It’s a fact the location services on your cell phone can be used by the government to track your movements. The American Civil Liberties Union explains:
As long as it is turned on, your mobile phone registers its position with cell towers every few minutes, whether the phone is being used or not. Since mobile carriers are retaining location data on their customers, government officials can learn a tremendous amount of detailed personal information about you by accessing your location history from your cell phone company, ranging from which friends you’re seeing to where you go to the doctor to how often you go to church. The Justice Department and most local police forces can get months’ worth of this information, without you ever knowing – and often without a warrant from a judge.
It’s not just your location that can be tracked by law enforcement, but your use of data too.
Mattel wants to get in on this “spying” action with its new Barbie doll. Due out in the fall of 2015, the Hello Barbie will record your child’s voice then send the data to the company. The information will be used for marketing.
The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood explains:
Imagine your children playing with a Wi-Fi-connected doll that records their conversations–and then transmits them to a corporation which analyzes every word to learn “all of [the child’s] likes and dislikes.” That’s exactly what Mattel’s eavesdropping “Hello Barbie” will do if it is released this fall, as planned. But we can stop it!
Kids using “Hello Barbie”‘ won’t only be talking to a doll, they’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It’s creepy—and creates a host of dangers for children and families.
Children naturally reveal a lot about themselves when they play. In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that encourage kids to share information about their interests, their families, and more—information advertisers can use to market unfairly to children.
Mattel has been in trouble lately. For the third year in a row, Barbie sales are down. The company is scrambling to revive Barbie, as the market has changed to reflect kids growing up faster and the appeal of movie character dolls. Mattel needs the data of your little girl’s thoughts and feelings to figure out how to increase profits. The company doesn’t care about your child’s privacy.
The Hello Barbie actually may be illegal. Popular Science explains:
Unveiled last month, Hello Barbie is a clever toy with a little bit of an oversharing problem. With a microphone, Hello Barbie can listen to what children tell it. With a computer and a Wi-Fi connection, Hello Barbie can take those words, encrypt them, and then send them over the internet to a cloud server where voice recognition software listens to the recording and then picks a reply for Hello Barbie to send back. Only there’s a minor hitch: it might be illegal to record children and then store that information elsewhere.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which became law in April 2000, sets out strict rules for obtaining information from minors online. These rules prohibit the collection of information from children under the age of 13 unless there is parental consent, plus a way for the parents to find out what information was collected and then obtain that information, or unless the information is used to respond to the child as a one-off and isn’t stored in a retrievable way.
It is bad enough that adult technology has taken away our privacy, but to design toys that do the same simply to increase profits is abominable.