That smart doll could be a spy. Parents, smash!

The My Friend Cayla doll gets banned in Germany, where regulators classify it as an illegal "hidden espionage device."

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

The My Friend Cayla doll may not be your friend at all.

Gensis Toys

If you're considering purchasing a connected toy for your offspring, you might want to think twice.

In Germany, regulators have determined that the My Friend Cayla doll could be up to no good, given its potential to steal information about children who play with it. And they say that German parents whose children are in possession of a Cayla doll should destroy the toy.

The Federal Network Agency said in a press release Friday that it has removed Cayla dolls from the market in Germany and will not look to prosecute parents who have purchased one. It does expect, however, that parents who have bought a doll will assume responsibility for destroying it.

Cayla dolls, which incorporate microphones and ask kids questions about themselves and their parents, are classified as "hidden espionage devices," the possession and selling of which are banned by German law.

It's not the first time Genesis Toys, which manufactures Cayla, has been in trouble over the doll. In December the Electronic Privacy Information Center alleged to the US Federal Trade Commission that the doll violates privacy rules, recording conversations and transmitting audio files to a remote server without parental consent. Complaints have also been filed with consumer watchdogs for the European Union, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Norway.

Connected devices, from dolls to thermostats to Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers, are becoming common in consumer households. They're all part of what's known as the internet of things, a term that encompasses pretty much anything electronic that packs a microphone, camera or other sensor. Researcher Gartner estimated that in 2016 sensors would be embedded in more than 6 billion devices.

Genesis Toys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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