The Hidden Dangers Of Smart Toys: Protecting Children’s Privacy

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Photo Credit Canva
Photo Credit Canva

Source: Pooja B.

Why these high-tech toys could pose a significant privacy threat……

The global market for smart toys clocked in at a whopping $16.65 billion in 2023 and is expected to grow to $35.11 billion by 2027. So-called “smart toys”, interactive toys that adapt to the user’s skill level through input and external stimuli, can provide hours of high-tech fun. However, they also come with hidden dangers, as undisclosed data collection, security vulnerabilities, and privacy invasions lurk beneath the surface of these seemingly innocuous playthings.

Alan, a website contributor at Increditools, sheds light on the risks associated with these high-tech toys and offers invaluable advice to safeguard your children’s privacy.

The Privacy Risks Of Smart Toys

Many toys today are packed with fun features, but some also include cameras, microphones, and even GPS trackers. These features can be a fun way for kids to play, but they also raise privacy concerns. Here’s why:

They Collect Your Child’s Data

It’s been revealed that these toys can collect a surprising amount of data about your child. Alan explains, ‘Several toys from major manufacturers have been recalled in recent years due to multiple organizations uncovering instances where children’s voices, photos, locations, and other data were being unlawfully captured or compromised.’

The Pose A Hacking Risk

Since these toys connect to the internet, they can be vulnerable to hacking. If a hacker gains access to the toy, it could steal the data it collects, upload malware to it, or even potentially take control of the toy.

The Risk Of Data Misuse

Alan says, ‘Stolen data can be used for malicious purposes like identity theft, or it could be sold to third parties without your knowledge. If the toy allows in-app purchasing, your credit or debit card information could be at risk.’

Leaks Have Already Occurred

CloudPets

In 2017, the entire database of a smart toy known as CloudPets was leaked on the internet. The toys allow parents to record video and audio messages and send them to their child’s stuffed toy, and the children can reply by pressing the toy’s paw and recording their message. The entire database of recordings of children who used SmartPets was freely available for anyone to download. The database leak wasn’t plugged in for a month, and there’s no telling how many people downloaded those recordings of kids in that time.

VTech

Electronic toy specialists Vtech were fined $650,000 by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2018 because they did not obtain parents’ consent before collecting the personal data of kids under the age of thirteen. This came after the firm’s database was hacked in 2015, exposing the information of 4.8 million customers, many of whom included children.

Amazon

Online shopping giant Amazon was taken to court in the US in 2023, accused by the FTC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) of violating children’s privacy laws. The case proved they had been collecting – and even worse, using – recordings of children’s voices and their geolocation data. Even more shockingly, Amazon had repeatedly ignored parents’ requests to have this data deleted from their databases. The company had to shell out $25 million in fines as a result.

Alan’s Smart Toy Safety Checklist
#1: Do Your Research

Before buying a connected toy, research it online to see what data it collects and how it’s secured. Look for recalls, safety reports, and reviews to avoid risky toys.

#2: Prioritize Security

Only connect the toy to a secure Wi-Fi network and keep the toy’s software up to date.

#3: Turn It Off

When playtime is over, turn the toy off and store it securely to prevent unsupervised use.

#4: Privacy Settings

Adjust the toy’s privacy settings to limit the data it collects.

#5: Supervise Playtime

Especially for young children, watch them while they play with smart toys and keep toys in shared spaces so you’re aware of exactly what’s happening at all times.

#6: Consider Alternatives

If you’re concerned about privacy, traditional toys that don’t collect data may be a better option.

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