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Are Your Kids’ Toys Spying On Your Family?

Experts warn that internet-connected toys and devices may be recording data about you without your knowledge and distributing it without your consent. (Max Kohler/iStockphoto)
Experts warn that internet-connected toys and devices may be recording data about you without your knowledge and distributing it without your consent. (Max Kohler/iStockphoto)
May 8, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A bill to make sure your kids' toys aren't spying on them will have its first hearing before the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The so-called Teddy Bears and Toasters Act would require manufacturers of smart toys and devices to install privacy protections and notify consumers about what it records or transmits. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said some of these toys have voice recognition and can record conversations and collect children's names, location and even where they go to school.

"Because many of these toys and devices often lack even basic security features, they are particularly vulnerable to hacking, cyber attacks and those who would do ill will to our children,” Jackson said.

Senate Bill 327 also would apply to other internet-connected devices such as smart refrigerators, thermostats and digital assistants, requiring that companies tell consumers where their data ends up and explain their privacy protections.

The California Manufacturers and Technology Association said the bill will stifle innovation, encourage lawsuits and impose infeasible mandates. The trade group also claimed companies already are voluntarily taking steps to protect customers' privacy.

Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer supports the bill and said consumers still are largely in the dark about the ramifications of the "internet of things."

"We are now creating devices that are in your home, monitoring your actions, tracking your behavior, in some cases selling, giving away, your data to people you have no idea have that data,” Steyer said.

He said there is no legislative movement on this at a national level, so California is leading the way.

One particular doll, the "My Friend Cayla" doll that interacts with children like a friend, already has been banned in Germany because of privacy concerns but the toy is still available in the United States.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA