HomeNEWSSmart Barbie that records children’s conversations raises privacy concerns

Smart Barbie that records children’s conversations raises privacy concerns

Barbie is a speaking character in the Toy Story movie franchise, which shows toys coming to life and having adventures.

 An interactive dinosaur toy resembling another Toy Story star, Rex, has also transcended the silver screen, exceeding its Kickstarter goal of US$50,000 by $225,000.

Mattel says it created the interactive Barbie in response to constant requests from girls who wanted to to talk to their dolls.

An alternative reason behind Hello Barbie’s creation is Mattel making a last-ditch attempt to steal back the throne of “little girls’ favourite doll.”

A National Retail Federation survey in 2014 found 20 percent of parents were planning on buying Frozen merchandise for their daughter for Christmas.

Only 16.8 percent said they were going to buy a Barbie.

Regardless of Mattel’s motives, Hello Barbie is raising some serious privacy concerns over its ability to record children’s conversations.

Mattel says the wi-fi enabled doll records what children say around it in order to figure out a child’s likes, dislikes and ambitions.

Privacy campaigners at Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood (CCFC) say this new technology will exploit children.

Law professor and privacy specialist Angela Campbell said in a statement released by CCFC she would be very concerned if her child’s conversations were being recorded.

 “In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family,” Campbell said.

“This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children.”

ToyTalk, the company behind the technology, says it may use, store and transcribe recordings to improve its speech recognition technology.

Mattel has assured the public it won’t use the recordings for advertising, but it clearly is keen to foster a deep, emotional bond between children and their toys.

Susan Linn, director of CCFC, says this creates dangers for the child and their family.

“Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ aren’t only talking to a doll,” Linn said.

“They are talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial.”

More than 5500 signatures have been collected on a petition so far to stop the doll from being released. 

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