Monitoring children: privacy in the world of smart toys
Alexandre Plourde, Legal Counsel
Smart toys collect a myriad of data using microphones, cameras and other integrated sensors. These devices, which are connected to the Internet, often have significant security vulnerabilities.
Consumers that purchase smart toys are not adequately informed of business practices regarding the privacy of children. The manufacturers’ privacy policies describe the use and the release of information collected by these devices in vague terms. These do not exclude the use of data for commercial use and they authorize widespread information sharing.
In semi-structured interviews, parents demonstrated a lack of understanding of the technological capabilities of smart toys, and regarding business practices. A field observation test with children shows that, despite the technological limitations of these devices, they may have access to the children’s sphere of privacy.
The environment of smart toys raises several legal issues regarding cybersecurity, the use and release of data, information, and obtaining meaningful consent from the consumer. For all these issues, we find gaps in the business practices. Also, the law does not focus enough on prevention in order to guarantee a safe environment for these connected objects.
In conclusion, Option consommateurs is issuing recommendations based on European standards proposing an increased focus on prevention prior to marketing smart toys and better information for consumers.
Project deliverables are available in the following language(s):
OPC Funded Project
This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.
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