Germany has slapped a ban on children’s smart watches because of spying concerns.

Telecoms regulator the Federal Network Agency urged parents who had such watches to destroy them.

The smart watches are generally aimed at children between the ages of five and 12. Most are equipped with a Sim card and have limited telephony function. They are set up and controlled via an app.

However, what irks the regulator is that the apps can be used to make the watches secretly call a desired number.  But, sneakily, the user doesn’t notice this. As a result, conversations can potentially be spied on.

The Federal Network Agency isn’t distinguishing between smart watch brands; it has outlawed the entire category. In short, these watches are considered to be spying devices which are illegal in Germany.

Hot on the heels of Norway

The Federal Network Agency’s move follows similar action in Norway.

Recently, the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) published a report into the security and privacy of the Gator 2, Tinitell, Viksfjord, and Xplora smartwatches.

These watches are aimed at children and the NCC raised questions about their security. For instance it flagged up the following:
  • Location data isn’t automatically deleted after a fixed period of time
  • Users can’t delete their accounts
  • It’s not clear whether personal data is transmitted or where it is stored.

Many of these watches are manufactured in China and questions are being raised about why the information is collected and what it is used for.

Some smart device manufacturers claim they collect data to help refine product development and give consumers’ devices they really want.

But how can listening in on a child’s conversation enable this? Manufacturers would argue that it helps them understand what children want. But of course it’s a huge privacy infringement and ethically unsound.

Further, poor security means that strangers using basic hacking techniques could potentially track children as they moved around.

Sinister, creepy and becoming normalised

  • Several red flags have already been raised about smart toys which collect information on children such as talking dolls and teddy bears. In some instances these devices have also been hacked.  
  • Smart technology is the next big wave and it’s certainly not unusual for smart devices to gather data on their users. However, it’s not something that device manufacturers advertise.  
  • Many people understandably find this sinister and creepy yet there is a danger that it will become normalised as smart devices become more common.

How to protect privacy

As a consumer security company BullGuard has been keeping pace with these developments, recognising they represent a serious threat to the privacy of families and individuals.

This is why Dojo by BullGuard was developed. It’s a deceptively simple device to use, managed via a smartphone app.

Yet it contains the most advanced and innovative technologies available such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • It’s plugged into a router and monitors every device on the home Wi-Fi network;  
  • If a device starts transmitting data over the internet it flags this up to the user who can them simply decide to block it or let it continue by tapping the smartphone app;  
  • Importantly, it also detects data that is coming into the network, distinguishing between legitimate network traffic and traffic that signals an attack is taking place;  
  • When it detects an attack it automatically stops it and then lets every other Dojo know, irrespective of physical location, that it has detected and stopped an attack. The other Dojos then apply this ‘learning’ to the home Wi-Fi networks they are protecting;  
  • As such it provides around the clock protection updated with the latest threat intelligence; privacy is always protected, information doesn’t leaking out and hackers are kept at bay

Find out more about Dojo here.