Senator warns voice-controlled toys might be recording children

Senator warns voice-controlled toys might be recording children

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTrump faces criticism for hosting Hungary's leader Bill Nye tees off on climate change skeptics: 'The planet is on f---ing fire!' Sanders to join Ocasio-Cortez in headlining Green New Deal rally Monday MORE (D–Mass.) is pressing a toy manufacturer and voice-recognition company about children’s privacy issues. 

Markey, who authored the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in 1998, believes Genesis Toys and Nuance may have violated that act by not properly notifying parents that their children were being recorded. 

He mentions two specific toys, My Friend Cayla and the i-Que Intelligent Robot, that he says may be storing children's voice recordings. He warns the toys could "provide intimate details about about the child user, and could be used to send unwanted and intrusive advertisements to kids." 

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“Given the sensitive nature of children's recorded speech, l believe that Genesis Toys and Nuance must take responsible steps to protect children's privacy,” Markey added in letters to both companies. 

Many voice recognition products record users' speech and send those recordings back to their manufacturers to help train the product.

Consumers groups, including the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the Consumers Union (which publishes Consumer Reports), say the Genesis products, both of which use Nuance voice recognition, “are spying on children, and sharing their intimate conversations with Genesis, Nuance, and unknown third parties.”

Those groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. 

In his letter, Markey asks the companies about data retention practices, cybersecurity measures to protect that data and whether the recordings will be used for advertisements.