Internet of Things and Internet of Toys
With the rise of “smart speakers” such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, it was only a matter of time until kids toys would get the “smart treatment”. This is just on niche in the broad field IoT (internet of things); thus, a new IoT emerged, the so-called Internet of Toys.
According to Lanner Electronics
“IoT is as much a concept and ideology as it is a technological undertaking. It seeks to take quite literally anything(ergo “thing” in IoT) , i.e printer, coffeemaker, shoes, light-bulbs, and breath new life and purpose into it by applying just the right amount of embedded, networked technology (the internet component in IoT).”
Yes, your read that right, shoes that are connected to the internet. And that is not all, a short search reveals other “things” that can be connected to internet:
- Plushies for children
- Smart locks
- Air quality monitor
- Blood pressure monitor
- Gesture control
- Smart Cooker
- Smart bed mattress
- Kids smart watch
- Smart baby monitor
And the list can continue; do those things make their user’s life easier? Of course they do, and I am not saying they are not trying to achieve that. But just try to imagine all the different types of data that they are collecting.
In a recent article, we have talked about how VTech (a toy manufacturer) has settle for $650000 in case that involved breaching COPPA. Furthermore, although this is one of the worse case scenarios, we must remember that information means power. We already give up a lot of our privacy just by using a smartphones. How would a person fell having an IoT device installed in their house; one that is active 27/7, and is passively listening and following each every move that they make.
According to the FTC , VIZIO, which is a popular, high-quality, affordable smart TVs manufacturer had to pay a fine of $2.2 mil. This happen because it was found out that the same TVs were happily tracking what their users were watching. Furthermore, all that data was send back to their servers, and from there it was sold to advertisers.
“According to the complaint, VIZIO touted its “Smart Interactivity” feature that “enables program offers and suggestions” but failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of consumers’ viewing data. The complaint alleges that VIZIO’s data tracking—which occurred without viewers’ informed consent—was unfair and deceptive, in violation of the FTC Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws.”
In 2016, The Norwegian Consumer Council said that:
” The internet-connected toys My Friend Cayla and i-Que fail miserably when it comes to safeguarding basic consumer rights, security, and privacy.”
Furthermore, in their analysis of two IoT Toys, The Consumer Council revealed several serious issues:
Lack of security
With simple steps, anyone can take control of the toys through a mobile phone. This makes it possible to talk and listen through the toy without having physical access to the toy.This lack of security could easily have been prevented, for example by making physical access to the toy required, or by requiring the user to press a button when pairing their phone with the toy.
Illegal user terms
Before using the toy, users must consent to the terms being changed without notice, that personal data can be used for targeted advertising, and that information may be shared with unnamed 3rd parties.This and other discoveries are, in the NCC’s opinion, in breach of the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive, the EU Data Protection Directive, and possibly the Toy Safety Directive.
Kids’ secrets are shared
Anything the child tells the doll is transferred to the U.S.-based company Nuance Communications, who specialize in speech recognition technologies. The company reserves the right to share this information with other third parties, and to use speech data for a wide variety of purposes.
Kids are subject to hidden marketing
The toys are embedded with pre-programmed phrases, where they endorse different commercial products. For example, Cayla will happily talk about how much she loves different Disney movies. Meanwhile, the app-provider has a commercial relationship with Disney.
Instead of a witty closing remark, I will leave you a list of interesting resources that eal with the Internet of Toys. I do hope they will help you, should you wish to find more about this subject.
- The Internet of Toys: Legal and Privacy Issues with Connected Toys
- Who Needs the Internet of Things?
- Connected dolls and tell-tale teddy bears: why we need to manage the Internet of Toys
- JRC Technical Report – Kaleidoscope on the Internet of Toys: Safety, security, privacy and societal insights
Oh, and this awesome Video from Finn Myrstad of the Norwegian Consumer Council.