Just in time for Xmas: BIG BROTHER “Hello Barbie” SPY Doll!

big-brother-i

new toy called “Hello Barbie” will have conversations with childrenrecord those conversations and send it to servers where it will get analyzed!

Toymaker Mattel has announced plans to create a interactive and connected Barbie doll capable of having internet-based conversations with children.

Hello Barbie” is taking natural speech recognition into the land of toys, giving Barbie fans of all ages a new and much more real (cough) best friend.

Besides carrying on a conversation, “Hello Barbie” can play games and tell jokes and stories.

Throughout it all, Barbie will be picking up on likes and dislikes, remembering to use what she’s learned in future conversations. That’s right—not only can Barbie now be your best friend, she’s probably a better listener than most of your real friends, too! (source)

Mattel’s Hello Barbie in Action at Toy Fair 2015:

ToyTalk is the company that provides the technology for the doll. It stores voice recordings, screenshots and, potentially, even photos from your child’s play sessions in password-protected online accounts where adults, presumably the child’s guardians, can access them. 

ToyTalk also reserves the right to access the data in order to improve the quality of the software. Its privacy policy states that “these recordings and photos may also be used for research and development purposes.” Presumably, they’re not looking at personally identifiable information when listening to the conversations, but who watches the watchmen? If your child tells Barbie that mom gave her a spanking, will the developers call child services? (source)

Hmm …things to ponder!!!

The new “Hello Barbie” is actually specifically designed to store the conversations that it has with the children, so it can then be analyzed by a team of researchers who will make the toy’s responses more complex.

“Whatever we come away with as our first blush attempt at the conversations, we’ll see what kids want to talk about or not. We’ll take our honest best guess at that and then see what comes back, and then that will change and evolve over time as those conversations happen between individual children and Barbie dolls,” Oren Jacob, CEO of ToyTalk said in a recent statement.

However, security experts have raised concerns about how else that information could be used.

“It wouldn’t take much for a malicious individual to intercept either the wi-fi communications from the phone or tablet, or connect to the doll over Bluetooth directly. These problems aren’t difficult to solve; the manufacturer needs to check the phone application carefully to make sure it’s secure. They also need to check that any information sent by the doll to their online systems is protected,” Ken Munro, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners said.

The toy is among a new line of products that is connected to the internet and able to eavesdrop and record any conversation that is happening in the room. (source)

This Barbie can spy on your entire family.

Sorry, but you have committed a thought crime. We have notified the appropriated agencies. Thank you.

Sorry, but you have committed a thought crime. We have notified the appropriated agencies. Thank you.

Vigilant Citizen also sounded the alarm saying:

“In an attempt to revitalize its Barbie brand, Mattel will soon launch “Hello Barbie”, a Wi-Fi-connected doll with artificial intelligence. The doll “talks” to children by recording what they say and responding accordingly. All of the children’s interactions with the doll are recorded using a microphone and are sent to a remote server through Wi-Fi. The recorded voices are then interpreted by an algorithm in order to generate an appropriate response. While some might find this innovation fun and interesting, others see in this toy a big-brotherish nightmare: It is programmed to ask personal questions to little girls, record their answers (and everything else the mic picks up) and then transmits the information to a remote location.

Even the promotional video found on the Hello Barbie website (which is meant to sell the doll) cannot help but going into creepy territory as it enumerates the numerous steps required to activate the doll: Downloading an app on a smartphone, creating an account using an e-mail address, connecting the doll to the home’s Wi-Fi network, etc. In short, well-meaning parents are actually taken through the steps required to turn this toy into a highly effective spy device that can pinpoint, with exact accuracy, who said what, at what time and where to then store all of that information on remote databases.

“Hello Barbie” makes conversation using voice recognition technology.”

Time also reported on “Hello Barbie in October with the following: 

A children’s advocacy group is not too pleased that Barbie will soon be able to hold two-way conversations with kids. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is launching a campaign next week to raise awareness about the “Hello Barbie” doll, which is set to hit American toy stores just in time for the Christmas season.

“It’s really kind of the perfect terrible toy,” says Josh Golin, the CCFC executive director. “It’s a tremendous invasion of children’s privacy.”

The “Hello Barbie” has a microphone and connects to wifi to enable conversations with children that can range from “jokes” to “inspiring storytelling,” and the toy’s chit chat can also tailor itself to follow previous playtime events. Mattel has said the inspiration behind the doll is young kids expressing interest in being able to talk to their Barbie.

The CCFC’s “Hell No Barbie” campaign is set to launch next week and include voices from experts and parents who have concerns about the toy. Some have gone so far as to call nickname it “Big Brother Barbie.”

“This is the first big volley and if it’s a hit we can be sure that there will be imitators,” Golin says. “Soon it will be impossible to tell a toy from a viral marketer.”

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