A brief recently released by the German Federal Network Agency, the Bundesnetzagentur, banned the sale of children’s smart watches, that can be used for eavesdropping. According to the President of the Bundesnetzagentur, they can be used to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment. They can also be used to eavesdrop on teachers in the classroom. Unauthorized, one way transmitting systems are prohibited under German law.
The devices targeted by the ban include smartwatches with a listen function, which are pervasive on the German market. These devices have a SIM card with limited telephony function, that is set up and can be controlled remotely using an app. The monitoring function is euphemistically termed as a “baby monitor” or “monitor function”. The app owner can specify a timer, which can call out to another phone at a specific time. This allows the person on the other end to listen to whatever the microphone captures at the time.
Earlier this year, the popular doll “My Friend Cayla” manufactured by a Los Angeles based toy maker, was also banned by the same agency. Toy maker Mattel also canceled an upcoming smart speaker for kids after questions about how they planned to store and protect the data they collected.
Actions against buyers
The Bundesnetzagentur advised schools to pay closer attention to the watches their students bring to school with them. For those devices that are known to have these capabilities, the agency asked them to destroy the components with this capability and send proof of this to them. Parents are also asked to make such phones in their possession harmless and keep records of destruction for themselves.
The selective banning of smartphones in Germany is similar to a ban in Norway. This ban came in the wake of a damning report that was written by Scandinavian tech consultants, commissioned to test children’s toys by the Consumer Council of Norway.