Call for ban on ‘talking, listening’ Cayla

Catherine Stihler MEP is worried that the doll could let hackers communicate with children. Picture: Rob Stothard/Getty
Catherine Stihler MEP is worried that the doll could let hackers communicate with children. Picture: Rob Stothard/Getty
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A Scots MEP has called for the UK to take action over the sale of a talking doll banned in other European countries amid fears that its smart technology can reveal personal data.

Earlier this year, German parents were told to destroy the My Friend Cayla doll by the country’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), which oversees telecommunications.

It comes after another “connected” toy brand, Cloudpets, was withdrawn from sale by Amazon and other major retailers when it emerged that voice recordings made by owners of the product were being stored online without their permission.

However, Labour MEP for Scotland Catherine Stihler has called for a UK-level ban after finding the doll was still available to buy on websites within the UK.

Researchers believe that hackers can use an unsecured bluetooth device embedded in the toy to listen and talk to the child playing with it.

The toy, which was named 2014 Innovative Toy of the Year by the London Toy Industry Association, was billed as the “world’s first fully interactive doll” when it was launched in 2014.

Stihler said: “Modern technology has created wonderful learning opportunities for children, but it also increases our responsibilities around consumer protection.

“It’s concerning that these dolls are available for purchase in the UK without any warnings for parents. I will encourage EU-wide action on the sale of such products to protect consumers in Scotland and across the continent.”

In November, an investigation by consumer organisation Which? found that bluetooth connection on some “connected” toys, including Cloudpets, had not been secured, meaning that hackers could change messages without needing a pin or password.

The Cayla doll has also been criticised by the Norwegian Consumer Council for allowing the use of the data from the child’s speech for targeted advertisements and other commercial purposes and its sharing with third parties, as well as for hidden advertisements through the doll’s positive statements about certain products and services.

The manufacturers of My Friend Cayla did not respond to requests for comment.