Parents in Germany have been warned to destroy “My Friend Cayla” dolls, but the UK distributor of the toy has told British mums and dads not to worry.
On Friday 20 February, the BBC reported an official watchdog in Germany had told parents the doll’s smart technology can “reveal personal data”.
The doll operates with bluetooth and can interact with children through having “conversations” and asking up to 3,000 questions.
The warning was issued by the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), who said hackers can use a bluetooth device embedded in the toy to listen and talk to the child playing with it.
But the The Vivid Toy group, which distributes My Friend Cayla in the UK, said the doll is “perfectly safe”.
“Vivid is aware of the recent press coverage regarding My Friend Cayla in Germany,” the toy manufacturer said in a statement to The Huffington Post UK.
“We take the safety of our products and our consumers’ experience extremely seriously – as well as, obviously, their compliance with all applicable rules and regulations in the markets in which we operate.
“However, the claims in the German media are factually incorrect and we are working with our German partners to resolve this issue.
“We would like to reassure customers in the UK that there are no grounds whatsoever for owners of Cayla to destroy, or get rid of their doll.
“The toy is perfectly safe to own and use when following the user instructions.”
The UK Toy Retailers Association also told the BBC “there is no reason for alarm”.
In December 2016, rumours circulated that the My Friend Cayla dolls were being used to “spy” on kids.
The Independent reported that a coalition of campaign groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in the US, alleging the toys wrongfully collect data from children and send it to Nuance Communications, a speech-recognition company that made the toy’s accompanying app
However Nuance Communications told the BBC at the time that it had “adhered to policy with respect to the voice data collected through the toys referred to in the complaint”.
Any parents who are concerned about their children’s doll should contact the UK toy manufacturer.