Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Toys That Connect To The Internet Could Put Your Child's Privacy At Risk

Charles Sykes/Invision for Hasbro
AP Images
Dance Code Belle doll from Hasbro

A consumer advocacy group has released its annual survey of dangerous toys. In addition to warnings about toys that pose physical hazards like choking, the group is sounding the alarm over toys that could threaten children's privacy. In announcing the latest "Trouble in Toyland" report, Washington Public Interest Research Group Director Elise Orlick  said consumers should be wary of toys that connect to the internet, from teddy bears to robots to dolls.

Orlick said the My Friend Cayla doll, for example, asks kids all sort of questions about their life, as well as their likes and dislikes. That poses a risk.

"The doll captures detailed information about the child when the child answers the doll's seemingly innocent questions about friends or pets or anything else and that information is collected and uploaded to a website and might be used for any purpose," Orlick said.

Another concern, she says, is that some toys connect to the internet through a Bluetooth device that isn't password connected, so a stranger could easily listen in. 

Toy manufacturers insist they’ve worked to secure the toys. But the My Friend Kayla doll has been banned in Germany because of privacy concerns.

According to a recent story in The Guardian, a German consumer advocacy group found a number of security flaws in other "intelligent" toys and is calling on retailers to pull them from the shelves.

Consumer advocates in the U.S. have a complaint pending before the Consumer Product Safety Commission over connected toys that they say are not adequately protecting children's privacy. Advocates say that protection is required by the federal Children's Safe Electronics Product Act.

The advocates aren't the first to warn about connected toys. Last July, the FBI issued a report warning anyone buying such toys to seriously consider the cybersecurity risks.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.