The team at learning toy company Click-A-Brick have added their voices to the growing list of individuals and organizations cautioning parents about new, internet-connected toys, as they’ve already been shown to have security lapses that allow children’s and families’ personal information to be compromised.
Internet security researchers have hacked into servers holding information from Mattel’s Hello Barbie, which “talks” with children via real-time language processing and records these conversations. Researchers have accessed those recordings, plus users' system information, Wi-Fi network names and account IDs.
In a widely reported incident involving internet connected toys from toymaker VTech, a hacker accessed information from 4.8 million customer accounts on the company’s database. The information the hacker accessed included parent’s full names, email addresses, physical addresses and information about the children who owned the toys like names, genders and dates of births. Personal information of about 6.4 million children was compromised in the breach.
The most recent concern involves Mattel’s Smart Toy line of stuffed animals that “talk” with children much like Hello Barbie. Also, like the fashion doll, online security experts were able to hack into databases and gain access to customer information. The HereO GPS smartwatch, designed so parents can track the location of their children, also displayed worryingly lax security for its users’ information, including children’s location.
With security of personal information being demonstrably unsafe in internet connected toys, and the educational value of talking toys being repeatedly debunked by childhood development experts, the team at Click-A-Brick, which recently released a new 30-piece set called Bug’s Life, are cautioning parents that tech toys may not be the best purchase for their youngsters if they are looking for a learning toy.
Click-A-Brick Co-Founders Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza say internet connected toys have proven themselves to be more dangerous than educational thus far.
“Recently, there has been talk of boycotting these internet connected toys and we wouldn’t disagree with that,” Smith said. “At some point, these toys may be safe, but it seems like the security has yet to catch up with the ambition of the toymakers here. We believe you have to make the toys safe before you can make them available to customers, otherwise that’s just irresponsible. That a toy company -- and a major brand in some of these cases -- can release a toy that may end up hurting a child or a family is a clear indication to us that some priorities have gotten rearranged here. Above all else, a toy should be safe. Once that’s been established, then is the time to look at everything else. Releasing an unsafe toy and then dealing with the aftermath later is backwards and an indictment of these companies’ ethics.”