Germany tells parents to destroy their children’s smartwatches due to spying fears

Aatif Sulleyman
Journalists check out the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the booth of Samsung during a media preview day at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, September 5, 2013: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Parents in Germany have been told to destroy their children’s smartwatches.

The Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) has banned models targeted at 5-12-year-olds, labelling them as “prohibitive listening devices”.

The agency says they can be used to secretly record conversations, through a “baby monitor” feature.

“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,” said Jochen Homann, the president of the Federal Network Agency.

“According to our research, parents' watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom.”

The Federal Network Agency says “a large number” of companies are targeting smartwatches with audio recording functionality at children.

“These watches have a SIM card and a limited telephony function, which are set up and controlled via an app,” it says.

The “app owner” could theoretically force the watch to secretly call a number without its wearer or anyone else noticing, the Federal Network Agency says.

“This enables him to listen unnoticed to the conversations of the watchman and his environment. Such a monitoring function is prohibited in Germany.”

Earlier this year, the Federal Network Agency told parents to destroy an internet-connected doll called My Friend Cayla, because hackers could use it to spy on children.

“The Federal Network Agency specifically advises schools to pay more attention to watches with interception function among students,” it says.

“If buyers of such watches are known to the Federal Network Agency, they ask them to destroy the clock and send proof of this to the Federal Network Agency.

“Parents are therefore advised to make their own watches harmless and to keep records of destruction.”