Markey, Barton Press Mattel on Baby Monitor Privacy

The co-founders of the Congressional Privacy Caucus are concerned about a new Mattel baby monitor's ability to record and transmit sensitive information, as are a bunch of privacy activists.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) wrote the toy company Friday about their new, voice-controlled, Aristotle monitor.

They described the device as a Wi-Fi enabled talking device with audio and video monitoring that could be in a child's room from birth through adolescence.

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They want to know how the device will monitor—photos, videos, voice recognition—how the information will be stored and protected, how parents' permission will be obtained, and whether the device is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), which Markey co-authored.

“In today's connected world, it is crucial we keep an eye on privacy and data security,” said Barton. “That is the exact reason Senator Markey and I founded the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus over a decade ago. Our goal in the letter to Mattel is not to stifle innovation and product development, but to ensure that parents know how their child's data will be protected.”

Separately, privacy advocates including Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, plan to send Mattel a petition with some 15,000 signatures asking the company to pull the plug on Aristotle, which they characterize as an Alexa for kids.

"I think that the 'early warning' sounded by the bipartisan Congress members is very important," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, "as these products are being funded by VCs and others who see the digital kids market as highly lucrative."

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.