Germany bans smartwatches for kids over spying concerns

Brian Heater
Germany bans smartwatches for kids over spying concerns

Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) issued a blanket ban on smartwatches aimed at children this week — and asked parents who’d already purchased such a device to destroy them, for good measure. The aggressive move is a response to growing privacy concerns surrounding devices aimed at minors.

"Via an app, parents can use such children's watches to listen unnoticed to the child's environment and they are to be regarded as an unauthorized transmitting system," the agency’s president Jochen Homann said in a statement provided to the BBC. The FNA also urged educators to pay closer attention to students’ watches, as, “according to our research, parents' watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom.”

Such concerns have been growing in recent years, as kid-targeted wearables have become more popular, along with their adult counterparts. Just last month, European watch dog group, Norwegian Consumer Council, issued a strongly worded report warning of safety concerns over GPS-enabled devices. That report went beyond tracking on the part of the parents, outlining the potential for simple hacking by outside parties.

“Any consumer looking for ways to keep their children safe and secure might want to think twice before purchasing a smartwatch as long as the faults outlined in these reports have not been fixed,” the NCC wrote.

That report specifically highlighted four kids' smartwatch brands — Gator 2, Tinitell, Viksfjord and Xplora. The Federal Network Agency’s new rules, meanwhile, take things much further, banning the category at large. The decision follows a similar move last February, when the agency banned and ordered the destruction of the My Friend Cayla doll, after concerns were raised over the toy's built-in microphone and Bluetooth connectivity.

Like that doll, the smartwatches have been classified as illegal spying devices by the agency.

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