Mattel’s smart ‘Hello Barbie’ which listens to and converses with kids sparks privacy fears

Mattel’s smart ‘Hello Barbie’, which features a microphone designed to listen to kids and produce appropriate responses when connected to wi-fi, has come under fire from a consumer group looking to protect the “intimate conversations” kids have with their dolls.

Following Mattel unveiling the smart doll at the New York Toy Fair 2015 in February to turn around its slumping financial outlook, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) group expressed fears that advertisers could use the information gathered from kids.

The US group, which “works to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers” issued a statement expressing concern at the doll’s features.

In it, Georgetown University law professor Angela Campbell, a privacy and technology advisor, said: "If I had a young child, I would be very concerned that my child's intimate conversations with her doll were being recorded and analysed.

"In Mattel's demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family. This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children."

ToyTalk, the start-up behind Mattel’s smart doll technology’s privacy policy states that: “We may use, store, process and transcribe recordings in order to provide and maintain the service, to perform, test or improve speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, or for other research and development and data analysis purposes.”

A Mattel spokesperson however told USA Today: “Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards, including the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.”

This follows Bryan Stockton standing down from the position of Mattel chief executive in January.

John McCarthy

I'm a reporter and presenter, into tech, sport, gaming and great ideas. Breaking news is my game although I love looking into the weird trends in marketing and advertising.

I drink tea.

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