Germany has banned the sale of smartwatches for kids, especially those that allow parents to keep tabs on their children. According to the agencies in the country, these devices go against the country’s surveillance laws.
Germany’s Federal Network Agency advised parents to destroy the watches and said it has taken action against firms that sell the devices. The watches are aimed at children between the ages of 5 and 12, Reuters reports.
“Via an app, parents can use such watches to secretly listen to a child’s environment. They are to be seen as a prohibited transmitter,” agency president Jochen Homann said in a statement to Reuters. “Our investigation has also shown that parents have used the watches to listen to teachers in the classroom.”
The agency has also asked schools to keep an eye on watch use among students, according to the report. Smartwatches that make phone calls, like the Apple Watch, are legal in Germany. The problem with many of the children’s smartwatches, however, is the devices have a classic snooping function, similar to a baby monitor, which can be easily activated just by using an app.
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On Friday the agency warned there are a large number of providers in the German market that are offering smartwatches for children which contain a listening function, often referred to as a “baby monitor” or “monitor function” in the companion app.
These watches have a SIM card and have a limited telephone function that can be controlled through an app, which means that they can potentially be used to listen in on conversations, which is a violation of the German law.
Germany’s telecommunication agency, the Bundesnetzagentur, has banned smartwatches for kids, and is asking parents to destroy them. The regulators have reasoned smartwatches targeted at kids “prohibitive listening devices” and are asking parents to destroy any smartwatches their kids have and advising schools to pay closer attention to kids with them.
A doll was also banned in February on much similar grounds the regulator prohibited the doll “My Friend Cayla” and labeled it as an “espionage device.” Apparently, the dolls were fitted with radio transmission technology that could allow children to be spied on.
Germany is targeting the listening capabilities of smartwatches but strangely didn’t say anything about the European Consumer Organization’s (BEUC) announcement that smartwatches pose a security threat to kids’ privacy. The BEUC warned that GPS-tracking smartwatches could be hacked and attackers could track or spoof the GPS location of kids’ smartwatches.
Germany could take drastic steps to ensure privacy and the safe keeping of information, so much that it can go to great lengths, even destroy dolls, need it be.