Privacy Groups Push FCC Action on Kid-Connected Devices

Consumer groups want the Federal Trade Commission and retailers to crack down on Interconnected toys and smartwatches to protect kids' privacy.

It has been a year since the groups, which include Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, filed a complaint with the FTC about two toys, Cayla and i-Que Intelligent Robot because they collect and analyze what children say and respond to it.

They alleged their was inadequate notice of what the toys were doing or protection of the information creating "A risk of stalking and physical danger."

Related: Markey, Barton Pess Mattell on Baby Monitor Privacy

Some toy stores have dropped the toys, the group says, though not Amazon.

The call for action comes as the FTC is being given more oversight of the internet following the FCC decision to eliminate most of

its net neutrality rules and make the FTC the primary enforcer of internet openness. It also comes in the midst of the holiday consumer electronics purchasing rush.

More recently, the groups asked the FTC to protect kids from smartwatches that can track them, which are also on sale at Amazon, they say.

“Neither My Friend Cayla nor i-Que Intelligent Robot should be on anyone’s holiday shopping list,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America. “Parents should be able to count on responsible retailers and the federal government to keep products that threaten their children’s privacy and security from continuing to be sold.”

In October, the FTC said it would allow Internet-connected devices, including children's toys and personal assistants, to record and store the voice of a child under 13 without seeking parental permission so long as it is only for the replacement of written words with voice commands in performing search and other functions on those Internet-connected devices and then destroyed ASAP. It said that any other 'net-related use of a child's voice is considered sensitive information that requires parental permission, as does the collection of names, addresses or Social Security numbers.

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.