Talking Doll Cayla Is Banned In Germany Over Security Issues

By Victor Thomson , Feb 20, 2017 07:01 AM EST

Controversies have been raised around the world by a doll called My Friend Cayla. Germany's telecommunications regulator has recommended parents immediately to stop using the doll that connects to the internet via Bluetooth and includes a hidden microphone that could be used to spy on families and compromise their personal information.

Doll Cayla Is Banned In Germany

The German regulator has recommended parents to destroy the internal microphone of the doll and immediately stop using the toy. According to News Channel 4, the setup of Cayla allows the doll to listen and respond to simple questions. However, the German regulator is concerned by the fact that the doll's design violates privacy rules.

In certain conditions, Cayla could be used to spy on families. According to Olaf Peter Eul, a spokesman for the country's telecoms regulator, it is illegal to own the doll. The German regulator agency expects people to destroy the microphone's functionality on the doll.

The doll has been created by a U.S. company called Genesis. The company did not comment on the bans of its toys in Germany. The dolls are distributed in Germany by the U.K.-based toy company Vivid. The company said that it is working with its German partners to solve the issue and it is serious about compliance with rules and regulations.

In Germany, wireless devices with hidden microphones or cameras are illegal. However, products with a cord or with visible microphones or cameras are permitted. Germany's telecommunications regulator said that it has contacted the manufacturer of the dolls, requesting it to remove them from stores' shelves.

For the moment, the regulator is not considering penalties against owners, even if the dolls are considered to be illegal. Similar concerns about the doll have been also raised in the United States. In December, a complaint has been filed with the Federal Trade Commission by a group of consumer watchdog organizations, arguing the dolls could be used to listen in on children.

Security And Privacy Concerns

According to NBC News, the talking doll named Cayla is posing a security risk and could allow personal data to be revealed because the software inside her could be hacked. Germany's Federal Network Agency considers that the doll's features might carry the potential for espionage. The doll uses speech-to-text technology, a Wi-Fi connection, and Bluetooth. By concealing a microphone and being able of transmitting a signal, the doll can compromise people's privacy by transmitting data without detection.

Germany's regulator agency head Jochen Homann said that the measure to ban the toy aims to protect "the weakest members of society." The doll is classified now by Germany's Federal Network Agency as an illegal unlicensed radio device. All German toy stores in the market have already been instructed by the agency to remove the toy from their shelves.

One of the serious security concerns of the regulatory agency is that the manufacturer of the My Friend Cayla talking doll "hadn't adequately protected" its Bluetooth feature. As consequence, third parties can gain access to the feature and tap into the doll. According to researcher Stefan Hessel, the toy lacks any security protection. In a test, the researcher was able to hack the doll even through several walls.

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