When the teddy bear is watching: Smart toys and their pitfalls

A talking doll can be coveted gifts for children. But such high-tech toys can come with significant privacy issues. — dpa

Although smart toys may be high up on a child’s list, parents should think twice before bringing them into the home.

Especially toys that record video and sound could potentially violate privacy rules, the German Federal Network Agency warns.

It’s worth checking if the toy’s camera and microphone can be accessed remotely by third parties, the agency says.

Take the time to verify how talking dolls or stuffed animals logged into your WiFi actually work – or instance, by checking usage instructions and data privacy disclaimers.

Toys that reply to kid’s questions without using the Internet or sending data back to manufacturers are unproblematic.

There are also smart objects for adults for sale online, like watches, that secretly record audio or video footage.

Features like “voice monitoring” or “one-way conversation” should ring alarm bells, as that could mean the camera or microphone is being accessed remotely without you realising it.

The same is true for tracking via satellite (GPS) or mobile network technologies.

These features are often installed in cars to determine your vehicle’s position in case of theft, or built into pet collars to find runaway animals.

But if they can be activated remotely via text or app, they are questionable. – dpa

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