Germany tells parents to destroy microphone in ‘illegal’ doll

Posted at 5:10 PM, Feb 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-19 17:10:00-05

Germany’s telecommunications regulator has warned parents that a doll sold in the country could be used to snoop on families and compromise their personal information.

The regulator has recommended that parents immediately stop use of the “illegal” doll and destroy its internal microphone.

The doll — called My Friend Cayla — connects to the internet via Bluetooth. The setup allows it to listen and respond to questions like: “What’s the tallest animal in the world?” (Answer: Giraffe)

But the German regulator says the doll’s design violates privacy rules. They worry that it could be used to snoop on families.

“The ownership of this device is illegal,” said Olaf Peter Eul, a spokesman for the country’s telecoms regulator. “We expect people to act as lawful citizens and destroy the functionality of the doll.”

U.K.-based toy company Vivid, which distributes the dolls in Germany, said it was serious about “compliance with all applicable rules and regulations” and it was “working with our German partners to resolve this issue.”

The U.S. company that created Cayla, called Genesis, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

German rules stipulate that wireless devices with hidden cameras or microphones are illegal. Products with visible cameras or microphones, or a cord, are permitted.

The regulators said they have contacted the manufacturer of the dolls and requested that they be removed from stores shelves. While the dolls are considered to be illegal, the regulator is not considering penalties against owners.

Concerns about the doll have also been raised in the U.S.

A group of consumer watchdog organizations filed a complaint in December with the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that the dolls could be used to listen in on children.

The groups claim the “toys subject young children to ongoing surveillance,” and violate privacy and consumer protection laws.