by Joe Kelly
Mattel’s new wi-fi-connected Hello Barbie doll threatens child privacy with an embedded microphone to record children’s voices—and other nearby conversations—before transmitting them over the Internet to cloud servers. I’m proud to be part of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s (CCFC) demand that toymaker Mattel halt marketing and production of Hello Barbie to ensure children’s privacy.
Mattel’s technology partner ToyTalk then processes the audio with voice-recognition software. During its Toy Fair 2015 product demonstration, Mattel said it will use this information to “push data” back to children through Barbie’s built-in speaker.
“Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ aren’t only talking to a doll, they are talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial,” said Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC’s Executive Director. “It’s creepy—and creates a host of dangers for children and families.”
Angela Campbell, JD, Georgetown University Law Professor and Faculty Advisor to the school’s Center on Privacy and Technology, said, “If I had a young child, I would be very concerned that my child’s intimate conversations with her doll were being recorded and analyzed. In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family. This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children.”
We may use, store, process and transcribe Recordings in order to provide and maintain the Service, to perform, test or improve speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, or for other research and development and data analysis purposes.
A Mattel spokeswoman claims the toy will “deepen that relationship girls have with [Barbie].” Over time, she says, the goal is for the child and “Hello Barbie” to “become like the best of friends.”
“Computer algorithms can’t replace—and should not displace—the nuanced responsiveness of caring people interacting with one another,” according to pediatrician Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MD, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Children’s well-being and healthy development demand relationships and conversations with real people and friends. Children do not need commercially manufactured messages—artificially created after listening in on anyone within range of Mattel’s microphones.”
Dr. Linn added, “’Hello Barbie’ not only discourages the kind of creative play essential for learning and development, it ensures that Mattel—not the child—is driving the play.”
As a father and grandfather I agree totally with all the experts quoted above. This doll is creepy. I can’t think of any other word to describe it. I don’t want my grandchildren, or any children, anywhere near it.
Help us persuade Mattel to cancel Hello Barbie by signing the CCFC petition now at http://bit.ly/1EMbyvx
Joe Kelly is author of the best-selling Dads & Daughters: How to Understand, Inspire and Support Your Daughter. Find him at http://joekelly.com