Paper flew through the air, followed by the sound of two little girls squealing with delight.
It was a good sign that I’d hit upon a solid Christmas gift for my nieces.
But that wasn’t the only response I was waiting for.
My brother (their father) turned the tablet where we were having the Skype call over Christmas morning so I could see his face. He glared at me. “I can’t believe you did that. Payback, Joce. Payback is going to be horrible.”
I laughed, knowing that I’d won this round at least.
There’s an old tradition in my family where we attempt to find the loudest or messiest gift for our nieces and nephews. It was the fire engine with the ear-grating siren. Or the plastic factory that oozed slime. Or in my case, the giant box of musical instruments.
Of course, you were still trying to find a gift that made your niece or nephew happy. It was an added bonus when you could also get something that tormented your sibling.
However, while I love to torture my brothers, there are some dangerous toys that I won’t be buying my nieces this next Christmas because I want to keep my family safe.
Even the Feds Are Worried
Last month, the FBI issued a warning regarding toys that are connected to the Internet. Several groups have issued similar warnings in the past, but this is the first time that the FBI has stepped forward with growing concerns about privacy and safety risks.
The FBI warned that “such toys may contain parts or capabilities such as microphones, cameras, GPS, data storage and speech recognition that may disclose personal information.”
As a result, a child’s normal conversation with a toy may give away a child’s name, school, activities, likes and dislikes.
Just having such a toy in the room with you will result in it picking up other people talking in the surrounding environment, potentially gathering even more information about your family.
Earlier this year, Germany banned sales and ownership of a talking doll named My Friend Cayla made by U.S. company Genesis Toys. It was found that hackers could access the toy and potentially collect data.
Germany’s Federal Network Agency mandated that parents who had bought the doll for their children destroy it. Parents who ignore the order could face a fine of up to €25,000 and two years in prison.
You Must Choose Wisely
Your information and privacy are yours alone to protect.
No, it’s not always easy. Sometimes it means passing on some great conveniences. Sometimes it means missing out on some new, fun tech in the early stages. Sometimes it means skipping those interactive toys.
But clawing back your privacy once your data has been exposed is even harder.
If privacy is a bigger concern for you than enjoying the latest convenience or gadget, then we need to make sure that we’re always making smart choices.
The first smart step is to check out Ted Bauman’s special Privacy Code 2.0 report to learn what you can do to protect yourself now.
Fall is fast approaching, and I’ve already started looking for an awesome gift to send north for my nieces. And now I have a new nephew to spoil.
Will the toys likely be loud and messy? Yes, probably.
Will the toys contain a microphone that picks up what children are saying? No, definitely not.