Privacy seems to be a thing of the past. We are constantly on some camera or mic virtually everywhere we go now, and as protestors of Bill C-51 showed this weekend, there are still some people who don’t want their personal lives peeped on.
The new Hello Barbie is also angering some privacy advocates, who say there’s much more to Hello Barbie.
More like eavesdropping Barbie.
With the press of a button, Barbie’s embedded microphone turns on and records the voice of the child playing with her. The recordings are then uploaded to a cloud server, where voice detection technology helps the doll make sense of the data. The result? An inquisitive Barbie who remembers your dog’s name and brings up your favorite hobbies in your next chitchat.
The doll, has privacy activists demanding its removal.
“Kids using Hello Barbie aren’t only talking to a doll,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “They are talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial.”
“In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family,” Angela Campbell, a faculty adviser at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology, said. “This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children.”
“Children confide in their dolls,” she said. “When children have conversations with dolls and stuffed animals, they’re playing, and they reveal a lot about themselves.”
As voice recognition technology has become increasingly reliable, we’ve grown comfortable with seeing it in our devices, from affable mobile assistants like Siri to Amazon’s new smart-home gadget Amazon Echo.
But there’s a difference between an adult knowingly giving their information to a company and a child unknowingly playing with a data-collecting toy.
Golan Levin, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies new modes of interactive expression, is also concerned with the doll’s data collection. “This is actually downright creepy,” he told Mashable. “The difference between Siri and this toy is that I’m an adult. I’ve consented to give my information to Apple.”
Hello Barbie hits shelves this fall at $74.99.