Creepy AI Gadgets Spy on Children and Anyone Near

Creepy AI Gadgets Spy on Children and Anyone Near

Privacy campaigners have revealed several children’s AI gadgets and toys that collect data by secretly listening to their conversations and anyone close by.

One of the gadgets, Angel Watch, which has been touted as a “child-safe wearable mobile phone,” has now come under fire for its potential privacy infringements. The Mozilla Foundation labeled it the “creepiest.”

Launched in the UK last year, the £170 Angel Watch allows parents to “find and track” their children, but its lack of a privacy policy has raised significant concerns.

Privacy breach for children

The Mozilla Foundation’s annual “Privacy Not Included” study cites smart toys and apps for kids as the “worst in class” for user data collection. Angel Watch is worrisome as it can track whereabouts and covertly listen to conversations from anyone within “earshot.”

The device does not have a privacy policy, which makes it difficult for customers to understand how their sensitive information is handled despite its vast data collection.

According to the Daily Mail, a Mozilla report also flagged the AI robot Moxie, designed to help children with their social skills using a built-in chatbot. Moxie costs £1,200, and it can record audio and video from people around and share it with OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, as well as Google.

The unsettling robot only works when data gathering is enabled, and outside businesses might utilize the information gathered to train more AI models.

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Tech giants found wanting

The report also draws attention to recent fines levied against tech giants Microsoft and Amazon in the US for allegedly violating children’s online privacy laws. For instance, Amazon was slapped with a $25 million fine for violating children’s privacy with its Alexa.

The ‘Privacy Not Included’ report emphasizes the growing use of AI in children’s smart toys and apps, raising alarms about potential privacy breaches.

Angel Watch is marketed as one of the “best kids smartwatches,” but Mozilla has discouraged parents from buying it because it has no privacy policy.

The lack of information concerning data exchange, deletion, and protection has raised major concerns among researchers.

“We are very worried that a device that has GPS tracking, says it can be used to ‘discreetly monitor audio and video’ through a camera and microphone, offers cellular and video calling, and monitors body-related information like heart rate and temperature does not provide any privacy policy at all to explain how all the sensitive personal information is protected, secured, used, and handled,” the Mozilla report said.

Worrisome trend

Lead researcher Jen Caltrider remarked on the overall decline in privacy and security standards among popular apps and gadgets, especially those targeted at children.

“The privacy and security of our favorite apps and gadgets have gotten worse across the board, but especially among children’s products,” she said.

In early October, the UK’s data watchdog Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) accused Snapchat of a “worrying failure” to assess the privacy risk its chatbot, My AI, posed to users, especially children. The ICO warned it could shut down the My AI feature in the UK after “preliminary investigations.”

Italy has already banned ChatGPT over privacy concerns following data breaches and concerns over children’s safety.

As these privacy concerns continue to emerge, consumers are urged to exercise caution and thoroughly research the privacy policies of smart devices targeted at children.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.