Make sure the gift you give isn’t doing undercover work without your permission.
Have you heard about the new artificially intelligent Hello Barbie doll that talks to your child? You download an app to your phone or computer that allows the doll to get on your home Wi-Fi. Then your son or daughter can talk to Barbie and she responds with one of 8,000 messages pre-recorded and based on the question your child asked. Sounds innocent?
Not so much when you know that the conversations are recorded and Mattel has a contract with Toy-Talk to review all responses. The idea of this Internet of Things toy is to develop more responses based on the questions asked, but unlike a “true” friend, Barbie spills whatever she hears to many ears. If an adult is near Hello Barbie, their conversations are also recorded. You can even access recordings of conversations with Barbie through the app.
Hello Barbie isn’t the only toy that has privacy issues. Any electronic toy that has an embedded system is capable of tracking your child’s identity through location data, which can be communicated to many other entities including other web and/or mobile services and servers. This sharing of sensitive location data opens up the question not only of a child’s privacy but also of their safety.
One of the most popular Internet of Things holiday gifts is Fitbit and other wearable wrist-band devices that track tons of data. Do you want to track your weight, steps taken, sleep quality, heart rate, sexual activity, calories burned? These devices allow you to keep track of your health, but are able to send the information to various websites and apps.