Archives December 10, 2016

“Smart” toys are spying on kids

Emphasis added:

“Some people consider dolls creepy enough, but what if that deceptively cute toy was listening to everything you said and, worse yet, letting creeps speak through it?

According to The Center for Digital Democracy, a pair of smart toys designed to engage with children in new and entertaining ways are rife with security and privacy holes. The watchdog group was so concerned, they filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Dec. 6 (you can read the full complaint here). A similar one was also filed in Europe by the Norwegian Consumer Council.

“This complaint concerns toys that spy,” reads the complaint, which claims the Genesis Toys’ My Friend Cayla and i-QUE Intelligent Robot can record and collect private conversations and offer no limitations on the collection and use of personal information.

Both toys use voice recognition, internet connectivity and Bluetooth to engage with children in conversational manner and answer questions. The CDD claims they do all of this in wildly insecure and invasive ways.

Both My Friend Cayla and i-QUE use Nuance Communications’ voice-recognition platform to listen and respond to queries. On the Genesis Toy site, the manufacturer notes that while “most of Cayla’s conversational features can be accessed offline,” searching for information may require an internet connection.

The promotional video for Cayla encourages children to “ask Cayla almost anything.”

The dolls work in concert with mobile apps. Some questions can be asked directly, but the toys maintain a constant Bluetooth connection to the dolls so they can also react to actions in the app and even appear to identify objects the child taps on on screen.

The CDD takes particular issue with that app and lists all the questions it asks children (or their parents) up front during registration: everything from the child and her parent’s names to their school, and where they live.

“Information glut no problem for most Americans: survey”

“Most Americans do not see “information overload” as a problem for them despite the explosion of internet data and images, according to a Pew Research Center survey on Wednesday.

Only 20 percent of U.S. adults feel they get more information than they can handle, down from 27 percent a decade ago. Just over three-quarters like having so much information at hand, the survey of 1,520 people showed.

“Generally, Americans appreciate lots of information and access to it,” said the report into how U.S. adults cope with information demands.

Roughly four in five Americans agree that they are confident about using the internet to keep up with information demands, that a lot of information gives them a feeling of more control over their lives, and that they can easily determine what information is trustworthy.

Americans who are 65 or older, have a high school diploma or less and earn less than $30,000 a year are more likely to say they face a glut of information.

Eighty-four percent of Americans with online access through three sources – home broadband, smartphone and tablet computer – say they like having so much information available.

By contrast, 55 percent of those with no online source felt overwhelmed by the amount of possible information.

The term “information overload” was popularized by author Alvin Toffler in his 1970 bestseller “Future Shock.” It refers to difficulties that people face from getting too much information or data.

The Pew survey involved people over 18 interviewed by landline or cell phones from March 7 to April 4. The margin of error was 2.9 percentage points, meaning results could vary by that much either way.”