Tell-tale toys open bedroom door to strangers, consumer groups warn

Internet-connected toys such as iQue and My Friend Cayla push advertising to children and allow strangers to converse with them, consumer groups say

Internet-connected toys subject children to hidden marketing messages and allow strangers to converse with them from a distance, consumer rights groups say.

The groups highlighted breaches of security and basic consumer rights in two toys in particular, the i-Que robot and the My Friend Cayla doll.

The toys connect via Bluetooth to smartphone apps that record children speaking and transmit the recordings to a voice recognition service provider in the U.S., Nuance Communications, allowing the toys to appear to converse with the children.

But, the consumer groups say, there is no authentication or pairing of the Bluetooth connections, allowing strangers within radio range of the toys to detect them and connect with them to carry on a conversation with the children directly. Furthermore, they say, voice recordings that could contain personal information are transmitted to Nuance without explicit consent, and the toys inject messages into their conversations repeatedly endorsing Disney products.

The flaws were uncovered by the Norwegian Consumer Council, and raised with authorities in other countries by organizations including the Union Fédérale des Consommateurs - Que Choisir in France and the Center for Digital Democracy in the U.S.

The European groups recommend that people should think twice before buying the toys. For those who have already bought one of the eavesdropping toys, they recommend turning it off when it is not in use, and suggest returning it to the store or manufacturer. Consumer rights laws in the European Union countries allow a 14-day "cooling-off" period for online purchases, they point out.

In the U.S., the Center for Digital Democracy, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and others have filed suit against Nuance and toy manufacturer Genesis, calling on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate the companies' practices and to halt the product placement and the collection of personal information.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?