Four privacy groups have made an official complaint against two toys claiming that they are using technology to spy on children.
The digital privacy, consumer, and children advocacy groups Electronic Privacy Information Center, The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.The Center for Digital Democracy and Consumers Union filed the case last week with the Federal Trade Commission over the makers of My Friend Cayla and the i-Que Intelligent Robot.
The groups claim that the toys “spy” on children, record and collect their private conversations.
They claim that toy manufacturer Genesis Toys and speech recognition technology provider Nuance Communications are violating children’s privacy and protection laws.
The i-QUE Intelligence Robot is still for sale in leading toy stores here. “It’s marketed as the quick-witted, smart talking know it all, ultimate robot!”
Many stockists in the UK and Ireland in which My Friend Cayla was once available now list the toy as ‘Unavailable’ or ‘Out of Stock.’
The Genesis toys website says this about Cayla: “Cayla can understand and respond to you in real-time about almost anything. . . She is not just a doll… she’s a real friend!”
The complaint says that Cayla and i-Que are internet-connected toys that talk and interact with children by capturing and recording children’s communications and analysing the recordings to determine the words spoken.
The four privacy groups allege that these voice recordings are stored and used for a variety of purposes beyond the toys’ intended use.
The dolls are connected to mobile devices by Bluetooth. The case also concerns the levels of permission they request for access to these devices.
The Cayla and i-Que applications record and collect conversations between the dolls and children. Childrens’ statements are converted into text, which is then used by the application to source answers using Google Search, Wikipedia and Weather Underground, the groups claim.
The complainants say that researchers discovered that by connecting one phone to the doll through the insecure Bluetooth connection and calling that phone with a second phone, they were able to both converse with and covertly listen to conversations collected through the My Friend Cayla and i-Que toys.