Connected Toys Are Raising Complicated New Privacy Questions
MIT Technology Review
Talking toys have come a long way since the original Furby. Now they’re connected to the Internet, use speech recognition, and are raising a host of new questions about the online privacy and security of children.
Hackers have already targeted toys. Late last year, Hong Kong-based digital toy maker Vtech admitted that cybercriminals accessed the personal information of 6.4 million children. Researchers have also shown how hackers can gain control of connected dolls. But a number of the privacy-related challenges raised by connected toys are novel. They are collecting new kinds of data, and what’s at stake if something goes wrong is not always clear.
They’re regulated by a law that now looks outdated. In 1998, the U.S. enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, to protect young children from the risks of sharing personal information online. The Federal Trade Commission enforces COPPA, which is designed to give parents control over their children’s data. But some privacy advocates and policymakers argue that COPPA is not clear enough in some cases, given the wide and growing range of technological capabilities of today’s toys.