Justice

These Kids' Toys Could Be Spying on Consumers, Complaint Alleges

Hold on to your tinfoil hat — a pair of "smart" toys can allegedly record kids' voice data and send it to a software company with government contracts, consumer privacy groups claim in a filing (PDF) with the Federal Trade Commission.

The complaint was filed Tuesday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), and Consumers Union, Consumerist reports.

It alleges Genesis Toys' "My Friend Cayla" doll and i-Que Intelligent Robot send recordings to Delaware software company Nuance Communications, which also markets technology to law enforcement, intelligence and defense agencies.

From CBS News:

"Both toys include the physical doll, which include a Bluetooth microphone and a speaker, as well as a mobile application, which on the My Friend Cayla doll asks for permission to access the hardware, storage, microphone, Wi-Fi connections and Bluetooth on consumers’ devices. The i-Que robot asks for permission for a mobile device but doesn’t explain why, the complaint says."

The privacy groups claim Genesis and Nuance are violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act by declining to obtain parents' consent before collecting data from children.

"By purpose and design, these toys record and collect the private conversations of young children without any limitations on collection, use, or disclosure of this personal information," the complaint reads.

The complaint argues this use of technology "creates a substantial risk of harm because children may be unfairly targeted by these organizations if their voices are inaccurately matched to recordings obtained by these organizations."

ATTN: reached out to a representative of Genesis Toys for comment and will update this post if necessary.

"We have not received an inquiry from the FTC or any other privacy authority regarding this matter, but will respond appropriately to any official inquiry we may receive," Nuance vice president of corporate marketing and communications Richard Mack wrote in a Tuesday blog post.

"Nuance does not share voice data collected from or on behalf of any of our customers with any of our other customers," Mack asserted.

Nuance did not respond to phone and email requests for comment from ATTN:.

You can read the full report on the Consumerist.

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