The sale of kids’ smartwatches have just been banned in Germany, as the country’s telecommunications regulator has labelled them as essentially “spying devices.” While the wearables, designed for kids aged 5 to 12, often look like toys, they’re designed to allow parents to remotely listen in on the child’s environment via the watches’ microphone, all without notice, in turn offering the same functionality as a wiretap.
Germany’s Federal Network Agency says the watches are “to be regarded as an unauthorized transmitting system,” as they violate the country’s laws against recording private conversations without permission. The devices are intended to allow parents to check on their child’s safety: by using a mobile app in a similar way as a baby monitor, they can hear what’s going on around the child without alerting them, or anyone else.
“According to our investigations, parents were using the watches, for example, to listen in on teachers during class,” said Jochen Homann, Federal Network Agency President. The regulator is not just concerned about the devices opening the door for collecting data and spying on children, but that they could also be used for wider espionage purposes.
In addition to banning the sale of the smartwatches, the German government is going a step further and asking parents who’ve already bought one to destroy them, suggesting they be smashed by a hammer.
This follows a number of similar instances, not only in Germany, where a doll was banned earlier this year after it allowed recording of kids’ voices without permission, but also in the US, where toy-maker VTech’s products were hacked in 2015, resulting in the leak of kids’ data from 6.4 million customers.