Connected toys and the Internet of Things

Earlier this week I attended a Round Table event host by FOSI, it was supported by Microsoft and attended by Apple, NSPCC, IWF, various researchers and universities and other key stakeholders who have an interest in keeping children and their online data safe.

The session started with a hacker who showed us how easy it was to hack a smart doll and remove the library of unacceptable words from her databank so that she could swear like a trooper, we also looked at a dinosaur who was very similar to Siri or Alexa in that you could ask it questions ‘How far away is the moon?’ ‘what is the square root of 16?’ I guess it won’t be too long before these smart devices are completing our children’s homework for them.

We were then shown an internet connected sex toy (I kid you not) A vibrator which has a camera embedded in the end of it. The hackers were able to map the times of day that these devices were used and their exact location. More worryingly the pictures and videos that the devices had captured were viewable with no real hacking skills needed. You can do the same with baby monitors too.

We considered smart nappies that can analyse urine and remotely store that info, baby monitors that measure heartbeat and respiration rates but are not medically endorsed (what happens if you get a bad reading, do you take your baby to the E.R.?)

We also discussed smart teddy bears and how SEND children may feel more comfortable talking to them, and what if disclosures are made and that information is stored remotely and key words analysed. Would the manufacturer have a duty of care to disclose this possible abuse?

We considered how much of our private and personal data is being captured, stored and used for future marketing.

I thought a lot about internet connected toys and devices, ones that use bluetooth and wifi or connect to app on our phone or tablet. I thought about toys that don’t have a screen and so we don’t consider ourselves as being online while we use them or about how much of our private and personal information they transmit and store, share, sell…

I thought about Christmas and how children Santa Sacks will be brimmed with devices, toys and games which will share where they are and will always be listening to what they say. Toys that will learn their voices and accents and reply and respond in a way which is pleasing to the child.

I wondered how we embrace this to make it as safe as it can be.