Consumer protectionMarket watchdogs show risks of networked toys

The market watchdog team of the consumer association NRW today published its market overview of toys connected to the Internet. Among the biggest risks of these connected toys are loopholes in the security of Bluetooth connections, the profiling of child consumers as well as theft of sensitive data.

This market overview is based on an open online research on market-leading online shops for the toys and technology sectors. For insights on the risks associated with using connected toys, research over the last two years by universities, private institutes or consumer protection organizations has been evaluated.

These are the key aspects:

  • Insufficiently secured Bluetooth connections of connected toys constitute a security hole. Smartphones can connect to the toy without a password. Moreover, toys with speakers and microphone can enable unknown smartphone users within reach to overhear or even talk to children.

  • Connected toys collect personal data such as information about the children at registration as well as photos and conversation recordings of the children while playing. Manufacturers or third parties can use these data to create a consumer profile about the child and for targeted advertising.

  • Another data risk occurs when sensitive data of this young consumer group including name, gender, birthday and photos are not adequately protected on the manufacturers' servers. Therefore, even children can already be subject to identity theft.

Ricarda Moll from the market watchdog team of the consumer center NRW noted: "These potential threats are extremely controversial since children represent a particularly vulnerable consumer group. They are less aware of the risks and consequences of sharing their personal data. The connected options for toys confront parents with new questions and challenges."

Source: Market watchdog team at consumer association NRW

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