After researchers found that My Friend Cayla dolls were recording users’ and sending this information out to a third party specializing in voice-recognition for police and military forces, officials in Germany told parents to get rid of the toys. In case families didn’t take that request seriously, the country’s telecommunications regulator has since clarified that parents who don’t destroy their Cayla dolls could face more than $25,000 in fines.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Network Agency is taking its fight against the connected Cayla doll a step farther, banning the sale, purchase, and ownership of the toy.
For those unfamiliar, the My Friend Cayla doll records and collects conversations between the toy and the kids, and then uses speech-to-text protocols to turn the questions into searchable queries.
While the doll isn’t connected directly to the internet, it can be accessed by Bluetooth with any mobile device that contains the doll’s dedicated app, essentially giving anyone the means to eavesdrop on the conversations with the doll. Researchers claim that the devices are easily hacked to either intercept data or to turn the toys into remote listening devices.
“It’s pretty bad bringing a doll on the market anybody in a 30-feet radius can connect to,” Stefan Hessel, a law student who wrote the Agency’s legal opinion to ban the doll, tells the WSJ. “A regular Bluetooth loudspeaker is better protected.”
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