Mattel Cancels Children’s Smart Device Due To Privacy Concerns

Read the original article: The New York Times

Written 19 October 2017

Mattel, the popular manufacturer of children’s toys, recently announced that it would not be releasing its new smart device, named Aristotle. Aristotle was a voice-controlled computer aimed at children from infancy to adolescence, and was designed using similar technology to that which powers the popular Amazon Alexa. The device could perform such actions as teaching the alphabet, reinforcing manners, and other functions which led Mattel to market the product as an “all-in-one nursery.”

Mattel cancelled Aristotle’s 2018 release after receiving a petition signed by fifteen thousand people. The petition argued that children should not be encouraged to grow up and form bonds with a smart device. As with its sister products Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, Aristotle would almost certainly be collecting user information for various purposes. Given the nature of Aristotle’s underlying technology, consumers were concerned that their children would be growing up with a computer that collects data on them.

This isn’t so much cybersecurity, but it does relate to digital privacy, which I feel is equally important.

Protecting your privacy should be a primary concern in today’s digital age, where practically everything you do (related to the Internet, at least) is recorded, catalogued, and most likely sold. We live in a world where it is acceptable for the latest version of Windows to collect data on nearly everything they do on their PC, and then assign users an “Advertising ID” so that their computer use is directly responsible for the kind of ads they see on the internet. Searching things on Google is something that everyone does, even though their search habits and other user information are being sold to companies. As I see it, the fifteen thousand petitioners were clearly people who have drawn a line when it comes to data collection. That line, I think, was that Mattel is trying to collect data on people who aren’t even old enough to understand the concept, much less consent to it.

The fact that Aristotle was even conceived can hint at some serious concerns with children’s toys that may come out in the future. Some people in NYT’s article display concerns that new conversational toys may be released before too long, which could include the same tech that was seen in Aristotle. Many feel that Aristotle was simply the first attempt at including data collection technology in children’s toys.

Unfortunately, I happen to agree with them.


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (cropped to fit header).
Used under the Creative Commons 3.0 License.


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