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Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has written to the Federal Trade Commission expressing concern that the regulations for toys and related products are not keeping pace with “consumer and technology trends.”

He said toys that spy on kids by automatically connecting to the Internet through WiFi can deliver tantalizing tidbits of information about their lives to marketers.

“I worry that protections for children are not keeping pace with consumer and technology trends shaping the market for these products,” Warner said in a letter to acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen.

He asked whether the government has taken action with respect to My Friend Cayla or other products manufactured by Genesis Toys.

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming our Reality,” is the basic handbook on how American arrived at the point of being a de facto police state that essentially ignores the Constitution.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center previously filed a complaint with the FTC about some of those products, alleging My Friend Cayla and i-Que Intelligent Robot toys violated federal privacy laws.

Warner said recent events “have illustrated that in addition to security concerns with the devices themselves, new data-intensive functionalities of these devices necessitate attention to the manner in which vendors transmit and store user data collected by these devices.”

“Reports of your statements casting these risks as merely speculative – and dismissing consumer harms that don’t pose ‘monetary injury or unwarranted health and safety risks’ – only deepen my concerns,” he told Ohlhausen.

The EPIC report on the letter noted claims that CloudPets, a product of Spiral Toys, “stored customers’ personal data in an insecure, public-facing online database.”

The toy, the report said, “exposed over 800,000 customer credentials and more than 2 million voice recordings sent between parents and children.”

Regarding My Friend Cayla, he noted a complaint last year from privacy advocates that claimed the doll “can be used for unauthorized surveillance.” In February, 2017, the Bundesnetzagentur, Germany’s equivalent of the FTC, pulled My Friend Cayla off the market due to concerns over the doll’s surveillance capabilities.

“We all know that many of these so-called ‘smart’ devices aren’t so smart at protecting the safety and security of our kids,” said James P. Steyer of Common Sense Media. “Children’s toys with weak security can put not just kids’ personal information at risk, but imperil even their innermost thoughts. We applaud Sen. Warner for his efforts to ensure that our laws and rules keep pace with rapidly changing technology.”

Stephen Balkam of the Family Online Safety Institute also expressed concern.

“The expanding world of connected toys offers innumerable benefits to children through education and play,” he said. “However, it is vitally important that parents can trust toymakers with their children’s most sensitive information. Companies must take their responsibilities to families seriously and ensure that data is protected to the highest industry standards.”

WND has reported several times on the controversy, including late in 2016 when EPIC, which has had concerns about the “Internet of Things” through which “always on” devices such as smartphones, DVR machines, televisions and toys are connected, raised concern about the My Friend Cayla toy.

The company declined comment to WND, but it boasts on its website: “My Friend Cayla is a beautiful 18″ interactive doll that offers hours of imaginative play! Cayla can understand and respond to you in real-time about almost anything. Ask her questions about herself, people, places, and things. She’s the smartest friend you will ever have.”

The doll’s features prompted EPIC to file a landmark complaint, alleging such toys put children under intense and constant surveillance, violating federal privacy law.

The group said Genesis Toys and the company that monitors children’s comments, Nuance Communications, “unfairly and deceptively collect, use, and disclose audio files of children’s voices without providing adequate notice or obtaining verified parental consent in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act … the COPPA Rule, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

“It is incumbent upon the Federal Trade Commission to take action in this matter, and to enjoin Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications from such unlawful activities.”

See the games at the WND Superstore that don’t have a company listening in to your children’s conversations.

The complaint alleges the toys “are deployed in homes across the United States without any meaningful data protection standards.”

The complaint also cited the toy maker’s i-QUE Intelligent Robot.

Previously, Mattel’s “Hello Barbie,” a WiFi-connected doll with a built-in microphone, was spotlighted.

“Hello Barbie records and transmits children’s conversations to Mattel, where they are analyzed to determine ‘all the child’s likes and dislikes.’ … Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ won’t only be talking to a doll, they’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial,” EPIC said.

Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV also has a built-in mic that always is on and “routinely intercepts and records the private communications of consumers in their homes.”

“When the voice recognition feature is enabled, everything a user says in front of the Samsung SmartTV is recorded and transmitted over the Internet to a third party regardless whether it is related to the provision of the service.”

Microsoft has a voice and motion recorder called Kinect that is now installed in Xbox video-game consoles.

“The Kinect sensor tracks and records users’ voice and hand gestures when users say the word ‘Xbox’ followed by various permissible command options.”

A year earlier, EPIC began raising concern over such toys and “always-on” consumer devices.

The technologies may violate wiretap restrictions, state privacy laws, the Federal Trace Commission Act and more, the privacy group warned.

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming our Reality,” is the basic handbook on how American arrived at the point of being a de facto police state that essentially ignores the Constitution.

 

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