Smart toys are a multibillion-dollar industry that is continuing grow rapidly. As More and more kids are interested in high tech toys offered by manufacturers, experts predict that revenue for smart toys will reach 8.8 billion by 2020. With so many smart toys entering households many parents have many questions regarding the safety of smart toys. After many notable smart toy security breaches many parents are concerned about their children’s privacy. Parents faces challenges providing proper security because they may not that the technical ability to secure the devices and they may not be aware of the inherent risks in specific types of technology. Unfortunately many toy manufacturers are making things more difficult on parents because they are collect, storing, and distributing data collected by smart toys often times with no information about how and why the data is being collected and where the manufacturers are distributing data.
In the past manufacturers have collected voice recording data directly from children using a toy and sold it to a third party. Fortunately for parents some members of the government have began to take action to protect children such as Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Senator Nelson is a privacy and security advocates in government, he is leading the way warning parents about the privacy risks associated with internet-connected toys. Senator Nelson says that the improper disclosure of a child’s personal information including name, home address, contact information, physical location, can lead to exploitation or abduction and that children’s information is a growing target for identity thieves. Senator Nelson says this is because a child identity is essential a blank slate and it can be fraudulently used over a long period of time without detection. The Senator goes on to say that parents to not generally monitor their children’s credit histories until they are much older, if ever, and thus the parents or child may not know for years that an identity theft has occurred. Senator Nelson and his team offer some suggestions for parents purchasing smart toys. Before purchasing a smart toy, parents should investigate the manufacturer’s information collection, retention and transfer practices, the report said. After buying the toy, parents should change its default passwords and, if possible, alter the toy’s privacy settings to limit the amount of personal data it shares with the toy manufacturer. Senator Nelson does not want to portray the smart toy industry as scary. He says there are many fun and exciting innovations with that are revolutionizing the way children learn and play. Senator Nelson and this staff have created the Children’s Connected Toys: Data Security and Privacy Concerns Report. The report includes a analysis of current state of security in the world of smart toys and recommends that toy-makers, the FTC, and parents take responsive actions to protect the privacy and security of children. The data privacy and security risks associated with smart toys require toy manufactures to implement data protection policies. Regulators must also keep an eye on this evolving connected toy space and ensure that the personal information of parents and children collected by these toys is protected. In the meantime, the report recommends that parents should remain vigilant by selecting smart toys manufactured by companies with strong data protection practices.