HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Amid the aisles and aisles of toys in stores like Target, My Friend Cayla sits on the shelf. She looks innocent, but at least three consumer advocate groups say she’s nothing but trouble.
“Parents are buying this doll without any clue their children are essentially being spied on,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
The groups claim kids are spied on by a third party that collects data from the internet connected toy; in this case, your child’s voice.
Here’s how they explain it. Your child talks to the doll, and that goes through an app or smart device. From there, it’s sent to Nuance Communications where the data is stored in a cloud. What happens then is what these groups want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. At a minimum, they fear kids’ play is scoring points for marketers.
“For instance, Cayla talks a lot about Disney products and going to Disneyland, so there’s a real possibility for product placement to occur within the doll itself,” Golin said.
But worse, the consumer advocacy groups warn in their petition to the FTC, there are no security measures on the doll. Anyone with a nearby Bluetooth connection could hack in.
“Obviously, the idea of a stranger being able to talk to your child while they’re in their bedroom playing with their doll is beyond creepy,” Golin said.
Cayla is just one of the toys in the FTC complaint. The complaint also names the I-Que Intelligent Robot, also made by Genesis Toys.
We reached out to Genesis but did not receive a comment. Nuance Communications says they take data privacy seriously.