Banned In Germany: Kids' Doll Is Labeled An Espionage Device
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of NPR
Posted: April 30th, 2017
A doll called My Friend Cayla listens a little too well, according to German regulators who say the toy is essentially a stealthy espionage device that shares what it hears and is also vulnerable to takeover by third parties. "Cayla ist verboten in Deutschland," says Jochen Homann, the president of Germany's Federal Network Agency (the Bundessnetzagentur), announcing a ban on the doll in Germany on Friday. His agency oversees electronic privacy as part of its telecommunications mandate. Cayla looks like an everyday doll and gives no notice that it collects and transmits everything it hears - in this case, to [Nuance], a voice-recognition company in the U.S. whose other customers include intelligence agencies. The My Friend Cayla doll remains for sale in the U.S., including via Amazon. Much of what the German agency says echoes the concerns of privacy and consumer advocates in the U.S., who filed a complaint against Cayla during the recent Christmas shopping season. They criticized the scope of what the Internet-connected toy captures, as well as the vulnerabilities it poses for users who link the doll with their smartphones. Consumer groups have also criticized the doll for its habit of praising commercial products, in what's often seen as a stealth marketing campaign that targets children. "For example, Cayla will happily talk about how much she loves different Disney movies," Norway's Consumer Council says. "Meanwhile, the app-provider has a commercial relationship with Disney."
Note: The use of artificial intelligence in a new Barbie doll generated controversy in 2015, while a New York Times article from that same year called "smart objects" a "train wreck in privacy and security". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.