Privacy advocates are expressing concern about the forthcoming Hello Barbie doll, according to an article by James Vincent for The Verge. The doll is the first Barbie – though not the first toy – to feature smart technology including wi-fi and voice recognition software allowing it to have learn about, and have conversations with, its playmates.
An advocacy group called the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood, or CCFC, has called on the toy’s maker, Mattel, to stop production. Speaking in a press release, a CCFC legal and privacy expert said that the new doll “asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family,” adding, “This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children.”
An executive from ToyTalk, the developer of the software that Hello Barbie uses, responded that while the doll does collect a lot of data from its users, that data is used to refine the technology, and is “never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity.”
Such privacy concerns are going to become increasingly prevalent as the Internet of Things – of which Hello Barbie is a small part – expands and infiltrates ever more sectors of everyday life. America’s Federal Trade Commission has already been called on to investigate potential privacy breaches in Samsung’s new smart TV, which can listen to users conversations, and has already found itself flummoxed in trying to consider how to regulate IoT security. Perhaps we can ask Hello Barbie if she has any ideas.