Growing concerns over internet-connected toys
- Forbrukerrådet/Center for Digital Democracy
In the December 2016 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin, we focused on online advertising and the commericalisation of children and young people, citing growing concerns regarding the Internet of Things (IoT) and its extension into the Internet of Toys with regards to the privacy of ‘consumer' data. Here, we pick up on the story, sharing the concerns of consumer organisations across the globe.
A major coordinated action on privacy and consumer rights regarding connected toys is ongoing on both sides of the Atlantic by TACD (Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue) members. The purpose is to highlight challenges in Internet of Things (IoT) devices in general, and in toys in particular. More than 20 organisations from 16 countries are participating.
Four organisations in the US are filing a major complaint to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). Joining the action on the EU side, by filing complaints or urging relevant authorities to act, are eight countries in total (France, Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden), plus the action on the EU side by BEUC (The European Consumer Organisation).
Organisations in an additional seven countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia) will also be involved in raising awareness and publishing the results in their countries.
The Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) has recently published a report on connected toys, where it has uncovered massive breaches to consumer and privacy law, namely:
- Lack of security: With simple steps, anyone can take control of the toys through a mobile phone. This makes it possible to talk and listen through the toy without having physical access to the toy.
- Illegal user terms: in the NCC's opinion, in breach of the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive, the EU Data Protection Directive, and possibly the Toy Safety Directive.
- Kids' secrets are shared: Anything the child tells the doll is transferred to a US-based company, who specialise in speech recognition technologies. The company reserves the right to share this information with other third parties, and to use speech data for a wide variety of purposes.
- Kids are subject to hidden marketing: The toys are embedded with pre-programmed phrases, where they endorse different commercial products.
The NCC have also issued a short video, in English, to inform of the issues:
Read the original articles on this issue at:
- Forbrukerrådet: Connected toys violate European consumer law
- Center for Digital Democracy: Internet-connected toys are spying on kids, threatening their privacy and security
This content is reproduced here with permission from the Center for Digital Democracy.
The Internet of Toys (IoToys) is part of the growing world of the Internet of Things (IoT). While certain internet-connected toys are part of some children's daily lives (such as toys-to-life which connect to video games), they are yet to become an everyday experience for most young children. Nonetheless, the diffusion of internet-connected toys is expected to grow significantly in the next few years.
- Parenting for a Digital Future, LSE
The issue of cyberbullying is often top-of-mind for parents who fear not only that their children will be victims of bullying, but also that they may be acting as bullies themselves.
- BIK Team
Cyberbullying, cyber ethics and hate speech, as well as the world of connected toys, good digital parenting and online privacy, were key concepts discussed during the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) Annual Conference, held on 1 December 2016 in Washington DC.