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The Genesis Toys i-que

Internet-connected toys (internet of toys) are becoming increasingly popular. With Christmas around the corner, two toymakers are under the spotlight from privacy groups in the U.S. and seven European nations. Specifically, Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications are being investigated for violating laws that protect child privacy.

Genesis Toys makes My Friend Cayla and I-Que Intelligence Robots, while Nuance Communications makes voice-recognition software for toys. Both companies are subject of a filing that will be made on Tuesday. The investigation will take place in the U.S., France, Sweden, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway.

The so-called internet of toys is becoming a major market, but privacy groups are concerned about data gathering. Consumer groups are “worried about the lack of consumer and data protection for children in the rapidly emerging internet of things,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of privacy group the Center for Digital Democracy.

The groups are “calling for an investigation into these products targeting children, with the goal, of course, of having them pressed to change their practices.”

In an email to Computer World, Chester said that the groups want the industry to know privacy watchdogs are monitoring developments. Indeed, he said “groups are aggressively watching these developments with alarm, and expect them to create products that protect young people and positively support their psychosocial development. The industry must adopt safe practices.”

Internet of Toys Complaints

In the United States, a complaint has been filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The Center for Digital Democracy is also part of the filing. The groups describe a litany of privacy violations by the two companies. Certain toys collect data such as audio files of children’s voices and share such data. The groups say neither company has sought proper consent from parents.

The ability to connect to these toys via an unauthorized Bluetooth tether has also been criticized. “Any smartphone or tablet within a 50-foot range can establish a Bluetooth connection with the dolls,” the complaint said.