Privacy Advocates Raise Concerns About Mattel’s Always-On ‘Aristotle’ Baby Monitor
Anyone who has watched a young child become fascinated with virtual “assistants” like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Google Home could guess that it was only a matter of time until one of these “smart” devices would be created specifically for monitoring kids. With Mattel set to release an all-in-one assistant/monitor, consumer advocates are questioning how secure, beneficial, or harmful these devices actually are.
The product is called Aristotle, and looks basically like a slightly taller Google Home, and includes a wall-mounted, WiFi connected camera that promises real-time HD streaming video of your kid to your phone or tablet. And the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood thinks it’s gross.
The website for Aristotle heavily features branding for manufacturer Nabi, a kids’ electronics brand that Mattel bought the parent company of back in January.
Nabi describes the product as “the first all-in-one, voice-controlled smart baby monitor that grows with your child.”
It works about the same way as your Google or Amazon counter-mounted assistant, too — always listening for cue sounds, then responding — but with a few extra features. The camera lets it function as a baby monitor, and the base not only has a speaker but also incorporates a light and a sound machine. The companion app, meanwhile, promises to function as a growth, feeding, and diapering tracker for new parents, as well as parenting automation — you can set it to turn on the light and play music in your baby’s room if it detects crying, for example.
Aristotle isn’t available yet, but shoppers can pre-order units, expected to ship in July, for $350.
Nabi at least seems to be well aware that internet connected baby monitors and cameras are basically the worst-secured, most easily-hacked devices in the world. It promises heavy-duty encryption on your video streams, and full compliance with COPPA, which regulates how and when companies can collect and use data pertaining to children under 13.
But security from would-be hackers is only a tiny, tiny fraction of the huge problems with Aristotle, the CCFC says.
In a petition asking Mattel not to release Aristotle, the CCFC says the product “isn’t a nanny, it’s an intruder,” and says, “Children’s bedrooms should be free of corporate snooping.”
Because Aristotle connects to other apps and online retailers, the CCFC says, data about families and children can be shared with all those partner corporations, who in turn can use it for deeply personal targeted advertising.
Additionally, the CCFC says, the device itself may cause more direct harms, by interfering with parts of infant development that, while exhausting for new parents, are totally normal. For example, soothing a child in the night or reading stories to them in person has a physical bonding aspect that digital caretaking does not.