Toys that connect to the internet could be spying on kids, FBI warns

Authorities worry about exploitation and identity fraud.
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These days, there are so many fun high-tech toys for kids.

They listen and respond – which is a ton of fun until the cute little smart toys start collecting a whole bunch of private information.

That’s why the Federal Bureau of Investigation put out an alert this week warning people of the dangers of high-tech children’s toys.

Federal authorities explain how these toys often contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, and capabilities like speech recognition and GPS. Those things mean it’s possible for the toy to record and collect information like a child’s name, school, likes and dislikes, and location.

“The exposure of such information could create opportunities for child identity fraud,” the FBI’s warning reads. “Additionally, the potential misuse of sensitive data such as GPS location information, visual identifiers from pictures or videos, and known interests to garner trust from a child could present exploitation risks.”

As the news release notes, collected data is typically sent back to the manufacturer or developer and stored in a server or cloud service. But if the server or internet connection isn’t secure, information could get into the wrong hands.

What should you do?

The FBI has some guidelines for what you should do prior to using a toy that connects to the internet.

They include things like doing your research on any reported security issues, making sure you only connect to trusted internet networks, watching what children (and you) say around the toy, and making sure it’s turned off when not in use.

You can see the whole list of safety guidelines here if you scroll all the way to the bottom.

And if you feel like a toy has been compromised, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Examples

Earlier this year, cute little stuffed animals called CloudPets were hacked and millions of private recordings were leaked.

And Germany banned an interactive doll called My Friend Cayla out of fear it would snoop on families.

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