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Banned In Germany: US Kids’ Doll Is Labeled An Espionage Device

Germany has banned the My Friend Cayla dolls, which are also the subject of a complaint by privacy groups in the U.S. who say the toys spy on children. PHOTO: Brian Naylor/NPR

By Bill Chappell | 17 February 2017

NPR — It’s nice to have a friend who’s a good listener, but a doll called My Friend Cayla listens a little too well, according to German regulators who say the toy is essentially a stealthy espionage device that shares what it hears and is also vulnerable to takeover by third parties.

Cayla ist verboten in Deutschland,” says Jochen Homann, the president of Germany’s Federal Network Agency (the Bundessnetzagentur), announcing a ban on the doll in Germany on Friday. His agency oversees electronic privacy as part of its telecommunications mandate; Homann also cites a special obligation to protect the privacy of children, calling them the most vulnerable members of society.

The heart of the problem, Homann says, is that Cayla looks like an everyday doll and gives no notice that it collects and transmits everything it hears — in this case, to a voice-recognition company in the U.S. whose other customers include intelligence agencies.

Nuance, the U.S. company in question, has said in response to similar criticisms that it “does not share voice data collected from or on behalf of any of our customers with any of our other customers.” […]

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