The FBI has warned parents that connected toys could pose serious risks to their children’s privacy and security.
In an online advisory statement, the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) cautioned that smart toys fitted with microphones, sensors, GPS capabilities, cameras and other features could collect information about a child’s physical location, which school they attend and their activity plans, potentially putting them in danger if these details were to fall into the wrong hands.
Children using connected toys could become vulnerable to identity theft or sexual exploitation if the information the devices record were to be accessed by hackers, the agency said.
The FBI advised parents to make sure these devices are turned off when they are not in use.
“Consumers should examine toy company user agreement disclosures and privacy practices, and should know where their family’s personal data is sent and stored, including if it’s sent to third-party services,” the IC3 statement said.
“Security safeguards for these toys can be overlooked in the rush to market them and to make them easy to use.
“Consumers should perform online research of these products for any known issues that have been identified by security researchers or in consumer reports.”
The FBI has published a checklist for parents who are worried about the risks posed by connected toys, encouraging parents to thoroughly research any smart devices they are thinking of buying for their children.
The advisory comes after regulators in Germany told parents to destroy a talking smart doll over fears the data it collected could be accessed by malicious actors.
In February, Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) said hackers could hijack an insecure Bluetooth receiver fitted to the My Friend Cayla doll, and use it to listen and talk to a child playing with the device.
The EU warned in March that more action was needed to monitor connected toys, noting that their “ability to record, store and share information about their young users raises concerns about children’s safety, privacy and social development”.
Snap Map allows users to share their location with friends in real time, but campaigners cautioned that children might inadvertently change their app’s settings, making their whereabouts visible to all users of the feature.
A spokesperson for child protection charity the NSPCC said: “It’s worrying that Snapchat is allowing under-18s to broadcast their location on the app where it can potentially be accessed by everyone in their contact lists.
“With public accounts, this will include those who are not known to the user. This highlights why it’s vital children are automatically offered safer accounts on social media to ensure they are protected from unnecessary risks.”