Mattel‘s Hello Barbie doll is giving many people pause because they’ve figured out that the toy is capable of much more than just chatting with your child. Called the “world’s first interactive Barbie doll,” the toy uses WiFi and speech recognition to be able to have a two-way conversation with your child. The doll is also able to learn things and tell jokes and stories. Information Barbie learns from your child (like their hobbies and favorite foods) goes into a cloud that Mattel can also use to update the doll. It sounds really cool and futuristic – except when you realize that Mattel can pretty much listen in on your conversations.
Hello Barbie can remember your child’s likes, dislikes and information about your family life, which some worry that Mattel can use for advertising purposes. ToyTalk, the company Mattel teamed up with to create the doll, says that they don’t use any of the information for marketing, and the doll includes a feature that e-mails all the conversations to the parents. There is also the issue of children not being able to consent to having their information culled in this manner because, well, they’re not adults. ToyTalk says that parents will likely have to give permission to record their child’s voice.
Mattel says they are “committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards.” The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a petition to help stop production of the controversial toy. “Children naturally confide in their dolls, and reveal a great deal about themselves when they play,” the petition reads. “It is wrong for Mattel and your technology partner ToyTalk to record, transmit, and analyze these intimate conversations (and others within range of “Hello Barbie” microphones) for use—or misuse—by Mattel, ToyTalk, or any entity that might intercept or access the data captured by the doll and/or your computers.”
You’ve got to admit – it is beyond creepy that a doll is storing information about your child and your home life on servers they can access in a snap. We’re all for technological advances, but the idea of a corporation having personal information about your child on file is deeply troubling.
The doll, priced at $74.99 is expected to come out this fall.