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Germany is dealing with children’s surveillance watches in the right way

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The internet of things comes with all kinds of privacy worries, and one country in particular is keen to address them. Having earlier this year banned an internet-connected talking doll for its lack of proper security, Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency, or BNA), has now turned its attention to smartwatches that are marketed for use by children.

The problem here isn’t so much a fear of hackers – it’s the things that parents are doing with these smartwatches. Not only are they listening to their kids as they go about their daily lives; they’re also using the kid-borne gadgets to listen to what their teachers are saying. And in a country that takes privacy very seriously, that’s a no-go.

As BNA president Jochen Homann put it:

“Through an app, parents can use children’s watches to listen to the child’s environment without being noticed. According to our research, watches given by parents are for example used to listen to teachers in class.”

The watches have SIM cards and can be programmed to quietly call a certain phone number. Silent monitoring is prohibited in Germany, the BNA said. So, as with My Friend Cayla the doll, the agency said people should destroy the watches – parents were told to “keep records of destruction” and schools were advised to “pay more attention” to this surveillance phenomenon.

The BNA also said it has “taken action” against several offers of such devices on the internet. The watches were typically marketed as suitable for children between the ages of 5 and 12, it said.

“There is a shocking lack of regulation of the ‘internet of things,’ which allows lax manufacturers to sell us dangerously

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