Hello Barbie, Mattel’s First Interactive Doll, Prompts Privacy Concerns
Hello Barbie, Mattel’s newest creation, has critics worried that the interactive doll will be able to spy on their owners.
What Is Hello Barbie?
Hello Barbie has yet to hit the shelves, but critics have already started a petition to halt its production, The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood launched the petition on Wednesday, March 11, expressing concern at the doll’s capability to record and store conversations. The petition currently has over 3600 signatures.
Hello Barbie uses WiFi and voice recognition technology to carry on conversations with their owners. Hello Barbie stores conversations in the cloud, allowing the doll to remember various facts about their owners and store information.
“The No. 1 request we receive from girls globally is to have a conversation with Barbie, and with Hello Barbie we are making that request a reality,” said Mattel Senior Vice President of Global Communications Stephanie Cota.
Critics: Hello Barbie is ‘Eavesdropping Barbie’
Critics are concerned that Hello Barbie will allow for Mattel to spy on children, and even sell information to advertisers.
“In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family. This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children,” noted Angela Campbell, faculty adviser at Georgetown University’s Center of Privacy and Technology.
Mattel has responded to the ethical concerns, saying that the technology of Hello Barbie does not threaten the privacy of any child, and that the toy will be completely safe for play. “Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards,” Mattel said in a statement.
ToyTalk, the tech company partnered with Mattel to create the interactive Barbie, also maintained that the toy would protect any user. In an interview, ToyTalk executive Oren Jacob promised, “The data is never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all.”
That said, Jacob also revealed that any audio files recorded by Hello Barbie would be made available to the parents of the owner, who can request weekly e-mails containing the files. “We want to make sure parents are in control of their family’s data at all times,” Jacob explained.
Hello Barbie is set to go on sale in the fall, in time for the Holiday Season.