Privacy Groups Investigate the ‘Internet of Toys’ -9

Throughout the semester I have been researching the topic of Toys that use AI. While looking through articles this week one by Grant Gross Senior Editor of IDG News Service caught my attention. In the article Grant explains that an international movement of Privacy groups is urging governments to look at the security issues facing new Toys that use AI. The Privacy groups are calling for an investigation into the ‘internet of toys’. A play on words referencing the popular term Internet of things or IoT, which refers to the interconnection of everyday objects to the internet via computing devices, enabling them to send and receive data. Privacy groups in the United States and Europe a lobbying consumer protection agencies to investigate the two companies involved in manufacturing AI toys for violations of laws designed to protect the privacy of children. The complaints come against Genesis Toys manufactures of the My Friend Cayla and I-Que Robot toys, and Nuance Communications the manufacture of the voice recognition software found inside the products. The complaints will be filed in several countries including US, France, Sweden, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway. Grant says that Privacy Groups report that this will only beginning of the actions taken by consumer and privacy groups.  One of the Privacy groups involved in the matter is the Center for Digital Democracy. Jeffrey Chester the group’s executive director says that specifically the group is “worried about the lack of consumer and data protection for children in the rapidly emerging internet of things”. The the group hopes to pressure the companies manufacturing products for children into changing their practices. Chester goes on to say that the groups have a larger goal, “We are putting the Internet of Things industry on notice that consumer advocacy groups are aggressively watching these developments with alarm, and expect them to create products that protect young people and positively support their psycho-social development. The industry must adopt safe practices.” The Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy, and other groups accuse Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications, of a “lengthy” list of privacy violations, alleging the companies collect, use, and share audio files of children’s voices without providing adequate notice of collection or obtaining verified consent from parents. The groups mention in their complaints that the toys fail to use authentication to prevent unauthorized Bluetooth connections with the toys. When the toys are powered on and not already paired with another device, “any smartphone or tablet within a 50-foot range can establish a Bluetooth connection with the dolls,” one filed complaint said. The Cayla doll asks children to provide their names, their parents’ names, the name of their school, and the name of the place where they live. The information is shared with Nuance, which also offers law enforcement and intelligence products, and that company has few restrictions on how it can use the information collected from the toys. The privacy policies and terms of uses for the products fail to provide how the information is used.The privacy group experts say “The lack of privacy and security protections amount to unfair and deceptive business practices, a violation of the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and European privacy law.” Personally I believe the companies should have to disclose what data is collected and what it is used for. I only believe that lawmakers to set some basic security and privacy standards for toys. After researching into the topic of AI Toys I think many of the security breaches involve simple security flaws such not having passwords, although all problems are not so simply and easy to fix, the companies can eliminate many of the security vulnerabilities just by following some standard security practices. I think the government should have some general security and privacy requirements for children’s toys.



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