A new version of the popular Barbie doll has some adults saying it's “downright creepy.”
With the press of a button, Barbie's embedded microphone turns on and records the voice of the child playing with her. The recordings are then uploaded to a cloud server, where voice detection technology helps the doll make sense of the data. The result? An inquisitive Barbie who remembers your dog's name and brings up your favorite hobbies in your next chitchat.
The doll doesn't just passively record:
“In Mattel's demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family,” Angela Campbell, a faculty adviser at Georgetown University's Center on Privacy and Technology, said. “This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children.”
Marketing is just one issue. Privacy advocates are also concerned because recordings are archived and stored for two years in the cloud. They files can be emailed weekly to parents. A child could reveal personal information to a doll that is shared without consent to parents and a corporation.
Privacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood released a petition to shut down Hello Barbie.
Mattel's partner in creating Hello Barbie, Toy Talk, told the Washington Post:
The data is never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all.
Consumers see lots of problems with Hello Barbie:
CNN points out that Hello Barbie is not the first creepy toy, but she may be the first to connect with wifi.