Bill calls for more security on 'smart toys'

A California state senator wants to keep "smart toys" and other electronics from spying on consumers.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) is pushing SB 327, a bill which would require manufacturers of internet-connected devices, such as kitchenware, clocks, and toys, to equip their products with security and privacy features.

Also known as the Teddy Bear and Toaster Act, the bill wants to crack down on everyday devices that may be collecting information or listening in on conversations in private settings. The bill would also require any connected device sold in the state to notify consumers whether its capable of collecting information such as audio, video, location, health or any other personal details, outside of the device's main function. This way people can appropriately make decisions while shopping. The device would also alert consumers, either visually or through audio, before gathering data. 

Additionally, consumer consent would be necessary if a device is collecting more data than required for its normal use.

Under SB 327, manufacturers would also have to inform people how to obtain information about security patches and feature updates. 

There are already California laws in place which require businesses to protect customer personal information by properly disposing of records and taking the right steps to put up security features to keep sensitive information safe.

One product which have been criticized for posing a potential hacking or spy threat is the My Friend Cayla doll, a Bluetooth-connected toy. The "smart toy" was banned in Germany after parents voiced concerns the doll could prompt children into giving out personal information, such as addresses and names of parents.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit which helps parents understand safe media for their children, also points out Mattel's Hello Barbie, Fisher-Price's Smart Toy Bear and VTech's InnoTab Max as devices that collect data from kids. The company warns, toy companies' servers can be hacked, putting information collected from toys at risk. Home Wi-Fi can also be hacked posing a similar threat and companies could use information from a toy for their own purposes.

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