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Hello Barbie's listening ability 'creepy', The Ubiquitous Doll is Now an Information-Gathering Device!

Published: March 16, 2015
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Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom at the North American International Toy Fair in February. The doll's ability to record conversations and engage in a two-way dialogue worries privacy advocates, who want Mattel to dump the concept.

"Kids using 'Hello Barbie' won't only be talking to a doll, they'll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial," Susan Linn, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. "It's creepy—and creates a host of dangers for children and families."

A new "smart" Barbie doll's eavesdropping and data-gathering functions have privacy advocates crying foul.

Toymaker Mattel bills Hello Barbie as the world's first "interactive doll" due to its ability to record children's playtime conversations and even respond once the encrypted audio is transmitted to a cloud server, much in the way that Apple's Siri voice assistant works.

But the microphone-equipped Barbie's new WiFi features are striking some concerned parents as a "creepy" new development.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood launched a petition last week to halt the release of the toy, which is scheduled to reach U.S. shelves in the fall and retail for $74.99 US.

About 5,200 signatures have been collected so far for the child privacy advocacy group's online petition.

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