Mattel’s internet-connected Barbie doll alarms privacy advocates

(Next Media Online) – Toymaker, Mattel Inc., has announced an internet connected Barbie doll which features interactive conversation with its user. However, privacy advocates fear the doll’s cloud-based technology exposes children to eavesdropping by Mattel, or anyone with access to the company’s servers.

The doll, named Hello Barbie, uses technology developed by a company called ToyTalk. The doll converses with its user by recording audio files of the user’s speech when the record button is pressed. The Wifi-connected doll then sends those files to Mattel’s servers where the speech is decoded and processed. A conversational reply is then sent back over the internet and played by the doll.

Mattel’s servers retain information about each user in order to personalize the doll’s responses. For instance, the doll remembers the user’s name, likes, and dislikes.

Parents can also have the doll’s collected recordings of their child’s voice emailed to them daily or weekly, so they can know what their child is telling the doll. This feature by itself has been called a potential invasion of children’s right to privacy.

ToyTalk says the information collected by the doll will not be used for marketing purposes, and a statement from Mattel says “Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards.”

The doll will be available for purchase starting in Fall 2015.

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