Tags: eavesdropping | hello barbie | petition | ccfc | privacy

'Eavesdropping' Barbie Draws Backlash, Petition From Privacy Group

By    |   Wednesday, 11 Mar 2015 01:37 PM

"Hello Barbie" was unveiled last month at the 2015 Toy Fair in New York City, but this week a children's advocacy group said the "eavesdropping" Internet-connected doll compromises family privacy, and released a petition against it.

As demonstrated, the doll can respond to user's questions through Internet-connected, language-recognition software. The technology is somewhat similar to Apple's Siri digital assistant: Simply press on Barbie's belt buckle, ask her a question, and wait for Mattel's digital servers to issue a fun response.

As Time magazine reported, toymaker Mattel has seen a slump in its Barbie brand sales over the past few years and hopes to reverse that trend this fall with the introduction of "Hello Barbie."

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), which has issued a petition to keep "Hello Barbie" from hitting shelves this fall, is concerned that the doll will act as a spy — vacuuming up a child's consumer preferences along with those of their family.

"If I had a young child, I would be very concerned that my child's intimate conversations with her doll were being recorded and analyzed," Georgetown University Law Professor Angela Campbell, faculty advisor to the school's Center on Privacy and Technology, said in a statement accompanying the petition.

"In Mattel's demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family. This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children."

In response, Mattel and ToyTalk, the San Francisco-based startup that created the doll's technology, said Barbie is no such Trojan horse.

"The data [collected by Barbie] is never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all," said ToyTalk chief executive Oren Jacob, according to The Washington Post.

"Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act," Mattel said in its own statement.

"Additionally, Hello Barbie’s technology features a number of safeguards to ensure that stored data is secure and can’t be accessed by unauthorized users," Mattel added, presumably alluding to the threat of hackers and other cyber-criminals.

"Hello Barbie" is still in the prototype phase, but is slated to go on sale in the fall for around $75.



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"Hello Barbie" was unveiled last month at the 2015 Toy Fair in New York City, but this week a children's advocacy group said the "eavesdropping" Internet-connected doll compromises family privacy, and released a petition against it.
eavesdropping, hello barbie, petition, ccfc, privacy
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2015-37-11
Wednesday, 11 Mar 2015 01:37 PM
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