Disruptive tech, such as Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), is continuing to make its way into mainstream consumer use. In recent months, disruptive tech has begun its integration into the toy industry. As children are particularly vulnerable to the full implications of these technologies in regards to security and privacy, we explore whether incorporating such complex technologies is putting your child at risk to breaches.

Concerns have been raised over AI befriending children. My Friend Cayla is an internet-connected doll, using voice recognition technology to chat and interact with children. Cayla’s conversations are recorded and transmitted online to a voice analysis company. Although manufacturers claim that the dolls are educational, as they enhance social skills, regulators have been urging parents to destroy the doll, classifying it as an “illegal espionage apparatus”.

Internet-connected toys have capabilities to connect to GPS and reveal users’ locations, even if they are children. The incorporation of bluetooth communications has allowed toys to be searchable for anyone with a bluetooth device. They will be able to see the toy’s name, and know a child is nearby – increasing the risk of privacy and security

Many connected toys have cameras that watch children and microphones that listen to them, but these functions could be hijacked to listen in on family conversations or take photographs or video of children without the consent of the child or parent. The information collected could be shared with third parties or kept for future use by the company itself

Despite the issues surrounding the incorporation of disruptive technology in toys, it could be extremely beneficial in the enhancement of a child’s learning ability. Manufacturers must find a way to mitigate the risk of privacy, bias, surveillance, transparency and accountability before these products continue to grow. Parents should carefully research internet-connected toys before purchase, and evaluate their capabilities before bringing these devices into their homes.