A government watchdog in Germany, the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), is telling parents to destroy some internet-connected smart toys designed for their kids. The agency found the technology included in the toys to be unsecure and hackable, and could easily reveal personal information.
The doll in question, My Friend Cayla, can listen to children and answer their questions by going online. It works very much like one of the digital assistants on our phones, but the device was found to be woefully lacking in security features. Researchers demonstrated an attacker could listen in and even talk through a child’s doll, and the device’s Bluetooth connection can be accessed by people in the doll’s proximity, but not necessarily in the same house.
If all of this sounds quite familiar to you it’s because the maker of My Friend Cayla, Genesis Toys, was on the receiving end of similar complaints filed with the US FTC at the end of last year. Advocacy groups at the time brought up many of the same privacy and security concerns, regarding a number of the companys toys, including this one.
The German regulator found that the toy amounted to a “concealed transmitting device”, which is illegal under the countrys strict privacy laws. Selling or buying a banned surveillance system can land you in jail for up to two years, so parents are encouraged to simply destroy the dolls.