Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Seeks End to Aristotle

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has taken aim at a new Mattel AI device, Aristotle, saying it's a data-collecting and marketing intruder.

The device—which is described as a smart baby monitor (it has "cry detection" technology), high-tech electronic assistant and an Amazon Echo for kids—has a camera and microphone and generated buzz when it was introduced by Mattel's nabi division at the CES show in Las Vegas.

Mattel says that "child development/parenting advice, learning, music entertainment, books and games content [from third parties including iHeart Radio] can be instantly accessed through the Aristotle hub and corresponding Aristotle app."

"In order to work, Aristotle collects and stores data about a child’s activity and interactions within range of the device," says CCFC. "Because Aristotle connects to other apps and online retailers, that data can be shared with those partner corporations, who in turn can use it to target the marketing of other products to a child or her family."

CCFC is hosting a petition to try to get Mattel to pull the plug on the device. Among their concerns is that the toy could interfere with the responding and bonding that are crucial to the parent-child relationship.

"Many of the country’s leading experts on child development and health concur that Mattel’s Aristotle product is a digital 'Trojan Horse' that threatens their well-being," said Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeff Chester. "Mattel should not be trying to creep into the room where a child sleeps in order to spy on them and generate revenues. This product should not enter the marketplace."

Mattel says on the Aristotle website that all the data is encrypted and that it is in compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

At presstime, a Mattel spokesperson had not returned a request for comment on the petition.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.