Mattel, the toy company behind one of the most popular toys of all time, Barbie. Launched in 1959, the favourite of girls around the world, Barbie has gone on to dominate the children’s market for dolls for the past 50 years. But the company has come under fire for its latest entry into the toy market, the smart Barbie who listens to children, titled ‘Hello Barbie’
The world’s first ‘interactive doll’ includes a feature that allows children to ask Barbie any question, and the doll will respond. This works by using voice-recognition software similar to Apple’s Siri, and by transmitting the data to interpret and Barbie will reply with a valid response. Campaigners are calling for a ban of the toy from reaching the shelves over fears of privacy. The Barbie doll will send recordings of children to a third party containing their personal and intimate thoughts.
The sort of information collected would be details about the child’s family, friends, her interests, all of which would be of valuable use to an advertising company. Another worry of this would be that ToyTalk, the company behind the data collected, will be able to hold the recorded information. This is said to be due to the toy ‘learning’ from their owner, so in future conversations the toy can draw on previous answers about the child and respond accordingly.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is hoping they can stop the toy from going on sale in time for Christmas, which of course will be a sure-fire hit with children. Facebook has always come under fire from targeted advertising being used on the website, as well as through Google adverts. The intrusive nature of targeted advertising through online websites has already worried many privacy groups, but with the advent of toys from doing the same, is even more alarming.
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