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Toys Cloud EU Government Networking Privacy Wireless Networking Idle

German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll (theverge.com) 142

It's illegal in Germany now to sell a talking doll named "My Friend Cayla," according to a story shared by Slashdot reader Bruce66423. And that's just the beginning. The Verge reports: A German government watchdog has ordered parents to "destroy" an internet-connected doll for fear it could be used as a surveillance device. According to a report from BBC News, the German Federal Network Agency said the doll (which contains a microphone and speaker) was equivalent to a "concealed transmitting device" and therefore prohibited under German telecom law... In December last year, privacy advocates said the toy recorded kids' conversations without proper consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Cayla uses a microphone to listen to questions, sending this audio over Wi-Fi to a third-party company that converts it to text. This is then used to search the internet, allowing the doll to answer basic questions, like "What's a baby kangaroo called?" as well as play games. In addition to privacy concerns over data collection, security researchers found that Cayla can be easily hacked. The doll's insecure Bluetooth connection can be compromised, letting a third party record audio via the toy, or even speak to children using its voice.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has said toys like this "subject young children to ongoing surveillance...without any meaningful data protection standards." One researcher pointed out that the doll was accessible from up to 33 feet away -- even through walls -- using a bluetooth-enabled device.
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German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll

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  • Distraction (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The real reason the doll was banned is because talking dolls are haram.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Too bad the German government isn't as vigilant against the far more serious threat of the invasion of third world criminals.
       

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        Seeing as the refugees are on average as law-abiding as Germans, there's no real problem to speak of. Of course if you refuse to look at scale and cherry-pick some events you could spin it any way you wanted, but that's incredibly transparent and only lapped up by those wanting to lap it up.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Too bad the German government isn't as vigilant against the far more serious threat of the invasion of third world criminals.

        While Egypt may be close to third world status now, I'm sure Saudi Arabia and UAE are far from it. I mean, those three countries alone have created many known terrorists. Even the French bombing was an Egyptian national in Saudi Arabia who got a travel visa from Dubai. Perhaps we should increase the "muslim blockage" to include countries known to harbour terrorists? But no, UAE, Saudi

  • Echo (Score:5, Funny)

    by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @05:51PM (#53893313)

    If they can do that to a mere doll, what would they do to an Echo?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The issue is that it's a "disguised" recording device. It's in the same category as teddy bear surveillance cameras.

    • This is probably the jaded perspective, but now that Amazon has started behaving properly and paying lots of local Euro taxes, their products' banishment is less eminent.
    • Re:Echo (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @06:39PM (#53893477)
      The theory about Echo and such is that those are not disguised eavesdropping devices.
      Which, of course, is only partially true, as 99.99% of all adults will not have the slightest clue (or ability to verify) when Echo records something, and whether or not that recording goes to some remote 3rd-party.
      • That is why I don't have an Echo, or such a doll :D

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          But you have a smart phone?

          • Re:Echo (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Dread_ed ( 260158 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @07:47PM (#53893681) Homepage

            This.

            When I look at my smartphone I see the fucking Eye of Sauron.

            Scary little fucking things.

            • Re:Echo (Score:5, Funny)

              by lgw ( 121541 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @08:00PM (#53893725) Journal

              When I look at my smartphone I see the fucking Eye of Sauron.

              Good choice of background pic!

            • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

              It's not a problem as long as you're aware that it's a spy. It's all the people that think it's just a phone. People trust the damn thing they take it with them to murder someone. On the drive to hide the body and then back to the house. When they get picked up they say, "No officer, I was home all night." Then they find out the phone told the police where you were every minute of the night. I'm amazed how often this shit happens. If I was going to do anything illegal I'd throw the fucker into a neigh

            • When I look at my smartphone I see the fucking Eye of Sauron.

              Scary little fucking things.

              Easily fixed. Just use an Android phone and wait until it gets into the inevitable state of running the battery down in a couple of hours, regardless of what's on it and what's enabled. Deniable privacy!

              Damn but I miss Symbian S60.

          • On my Smartphone are no interesting apps.
            Everything has internet access disabled, except google maps and Safari unless if I have WiFi ofc.

            If anything would spy on me, I most certainly would notice that due to network activity and bandwith consumption.

      • The Echo animates a bright blue light rimming the top of the device when it hears the trigger keyword and begins recording. The required Alexa app contains a complete history of everything recorded right on the home screen, and what it thought you said, allowing you to give feedback on each item. Given this, I'd wager that most people that own one have a pretty clear idea of what its doing. Granted, Amazon could modify this behavior at any time, but given that it would be possible for a security research

        • The Echo animates a bright blue light rimming the top of the device when it hears the trigger keyword and begins recording.

          The English language reports on this case unfortunately leave out quite a few details.

          The doll has some LED light that is supposed to show when it is recording, just like the Amazon Echo. But this LED on the doll is unreliable and often does not worke. Plus, the LED can even be deactivated in the app used to control the doll. And that is against a law here in Germany that makes concealed recording devices illegal.

      • The theory about Echo and such is that those are not disguised eavesdropping devices.

        Which, of course, is only partially true, as 99.99% of all adults will not have the slightest clue (or ability to verify) when Echo records something, and whether or not that recording goes to some remote 3rd-party.

        Well, they wouldn't in Europe since reselling collected personal data is illegal. Amazon can use it themselves, but they can't send it on or resell it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Amazone terms of use: all services are 18 years and up or require parental supervision to use. Not even the best lawyer will manage to convince anyone that children are not the target audience of the doll and extensive data mining of children is not legal in Germany and many other countries.

  • Since some people in the home might not know it was there or what it did?

    Or does the fact that Alexa or Home only respond when a keyword is spoken mean it's somehow ok under these laws?
    The Alexa or Home device is still listening and transmitting the voices to a server right?

    • The Alexa or Home device is still listening and transmitting the voices to a server right?

      It only transmits what it hears immediately after "Alexa" (or "Echo" or "Amazon" depending on settings), and it lights up on doing so to let you know it's listening.

      You also can't connect to an Echo via Bluetooth from next door and use it to listen in on conversations, which you can with this doll.

  • Well that isn't creepy at all.

  • I thought at first that I saw: "Destroy This WiFi-Connected Dell" and was quite ready to read anyways. What wasn't I thinking? Shocking!
  • by ATMAvatar ( 648864 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @06:41PM (#53893487) Journal

    The entire point of internet enabled devices is to collect your data. They are all surveillance devices.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No more cell phones!

      Surveillance device!

  • This will be great. Your daughter can practice having her own little auto da fe. She and her friends can dress up as Inquisitors, subject the dolls to the Question using Mommy's kitchen knives, then tie the doll to a little stake in the back yard. Pile some twigs around the base and light it off chanting Death to Technology. Post the video to You Tube. OK, maybe that's a bit over the top. How about just return the doll to where you bought it and demand a refund. If they give you any guff, start asking
    • The refund idea probably won't work, as you had to buy that doll somewhere where they are legal, so there's no need for a refund there.

      But I like the idea with the witch burning. Just imagine telling little girls "Yes sweetheart, Cayla was a bad doll.. se what we do with bad dolls here....? Muahaha..."

  • would have been a more appropriate name.
  • ... announced for the German market to replace Cayla. The doll will be named Mata Hari.

  • Microwave on high. 15 seconds should be enough.

  • I call Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crashumbc ( 1221174 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @11:24PM (#53894429)

    I've NEVER had a Bluetooth device maintain connection at 30 feet WITHOUT walls.

    I've never had one work through a door much less drywall...

    • I've NEVER had a Bluetooth device maintain connection at 30 feet WITHOUT walls.

      I've never had one work through a door much less drywall...

      I have had a few unexpected conversations with my mother-in-law while taking my wife's car out of the garage. I suspect not all Bluetooth devices are created equally, and the one in my wife's Ford is very good. It will connect to her phone from well over 30 feet, with several walls in between.

  • Many baby monitors are so powerful that they effectively cover the entire home and pick up all kinds of adult conversations. A scanner and a bit of extra effort and you can tune in and learn a whole lot about what goes on in some families. Read that as whose baby is it. When daddys away mommies often have numerous "friends".
  • What is a baby kangaroo called in German?

    What will the toy answer? The higher ranked answer from one of those cloying 'hot network questions' on stackexchange?

  • In Germany, covert listening devices are illegal to operate and own (exceptions for law-enforcement apply). That is why these dolls were illegal all along, because it is not readily obvious what they do. The "Bundesnetzagentur" has just pointed that out.

  • There are various entrypoints and none of them manages to display the settings window. It stalls in an empty window that can be closed but cannot switch to other setting pages. So my BT mouse is disabled and without one laptops are a small hell. If someone could do this to my BT, certainly they can do the same to a doll ! (sic). Strange coincidence, again.

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