Last month, the Norwegian Consumer Council put together a report that warned of the threat to children’s privacy posed by smartwatches aimed at kids. Now, German regulators have banned the wearables, which it describes as “prohibited listening devices,” and has urged parents to destroy them.
The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) had warned that a number of child-friendly smartwatches from the likes of Gator and GPS contained security flaws that could allow hackers to track wearers, spoof a child’s location, listen in on conversations, and compromise the emergency button. The two manufacturers say they have now fixed the issues.
While it didn’t mention the BEUC report specifically, the German regulator has taken exception to the watches’ ability to silently monitor children’s conversations. “Using an app, parents can use such children’s watches to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment, and they are to be regarded as unauthorized transmitting equipment,” said Jochen Homann, President of the Federal Network Agency.
Homann added that some parents are using their children’s watches to listen in on teachers in the classroom. Recording or listening to conversations without the permission of all parties involved is illegal in Germany. In addition to asking parents to destroy the watches, the regulator is recommending schools take note of any students who may be wearing watches with conversation recording abilities.
The telecoms regulator said it has already taken action against a number of firms selling the smartwatches online.
There have been plenty safety concerns over internet-connected toys in the past. Wi-Fi enabled dolls such as My Friend Cayla and Barbie were found to be vulnerable to hackers, as were smart Fisher-Price toys and HeroO watches, all of which have since been patched. Hopefully, introducing something as drastic as an outright ban will encourage manufacturers of connected toys to make the safety of their products the highest priority.