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Officials in Germany have officially banned children’s doll, My Friend Cayla, over claims the toy is “spying” on kids. Last holiday season an American watchdog group alleged the same about the creepy listening, recording and reporting doll.
Now the German government has ordered the doll banned from all stores while advising parents to destroy any existing toys. In the order, officials cited the toy’s ability to snoop on their children’s conversations as well as any and all surrounding conversations.
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In December, the Inquisitr reported the initial My Friend Cayla spying controversy in the U.S., as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) had teamed up with several consumer organizations to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that the doll and another product from Genesis Toys, such as the I-Que Robot, have spying capabilities. Both toys use voice recognition technology in a similar vein to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, utilizing Nuance speech-to-text software to record what children say, translate them to text, and access the internet to provide information or answer a child’s questions. According to the U.S. organizations’ complaint, Nuance Communications has an ulterior motive with the recording capability of My Friend Cayla and the I-Que Robot – using these recordings to improve the products it sells to its military, law enforcement, and government clients. The organizations also accused both Genesis and Nuance of knowingly withholding such disclosures to consumers. “Both Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications unfairly and deceptively collect, use, and disclose audio files of children’s voices without providing adequate notice or obtaining verified parental consent,” read the complaint, as quoted by CNN.
Now, new reports are stating that Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) has banned the My Friend Cayla doll over more spying allegations, advising parents to destroy the doll due to its supposed ability to reveal personal information. According to BBC News, German government researchers have discovered that hackers can listen to the conversations between child and doll, and even speak to children by means of an unsecure Bluetooth device.
The ban was enforced through a government law forbidding espionage devices and levying fines of up to 25,000 euros on anyone who still sells or owns such devices. But due to that latter condition, the Federal Network Agency stressed that it won’t be fining parents who had previously bought Cayla for their children, or seeking to punish them for those purchases.
In a report from NPR, Federal Network Agency President Jochen Homann underscored the importance of banning My Friend Cayla for “spying” capabilities, stating that children are the “most vulnerable” members of society. He stressed that Cayla may appear like an ordinary doll, but once again, deceptively makes use of Nuance voice recognition software, with its makers not letting anyone know of this functionality.
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