My Friend Cayla is not the typical secret agent. Not even close. In fact, her identity is out there for the world to see and she doesn’t care who knows her capabilities. She’s that good.
Standing at a towering 18 inches and powered by 3AA batteries, Cayla is able to carry on conversations with your children. She can also ramble on and on about herself—likes, dislikes, and even her possible career choices as she grows older.
Yes, Cayla is a doll, a child’s toy labeled as a “mole” and recently banned by the German government because of her ability to spy on the people around her. The country considers the doll to be so harmful that the FNC, Germany’s telecommunications network, issued an order to the public, instructing them to destroy every single Cayla doll in their possession.
My Friend Cayla is NOT Your Friend. She’s a Spy!
The order further instructed parents/Cayla doll owners to fill out a certificate of destruction and have it signed by a legitimate waste-management company official. The signed documents are then to be sent back to the FNA as proof the dolls were indeed destroyed. German law provides for aa potential fine of $26,500 and two years in prison as a general punishment for not following the FNA orders.
Cayla, you see, can be easily hacked by anyone within 30 feet of the dolls transmitting device. And, the Cayla dolls (also included are the i-Q Intelligence Robot) were found to be transmitting audio recordings to a third party specializing in voice recognition for police and military forces.
Ask Cayla if she can be trusted and she responds, “I don’t know.” A future politician, perhaps?
The dolls, designed as playmates for children, ask kids for their personal information—name, address, phone number, parent’s names, hometown, names of schools attended, and much more. All this without obtaining parents’ permission to collect the personal data.
The company producing the dolls says there’s nothing shady about the practice of collecting the data, which, they say, is used to enhance the experience of playing with an interactive doll.
Nuance – Dragon Naturally Speaking
Nuance, the company best-known for Dragon, the speech-to-text dictation software (I used it from time-to-time when writing my book on police procedure and investigation), is also a defense contractor that sells “voice biometric solutions” to the military and to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Nuance makes the interactive voice recognition system used in these toys (Cayla dolls, etc.).
It continues, “If you are under 18 or otherwise would be required to have parent or guardian consent to share information with Nuance, you should not send any information about yourself to us.”
How many 6-year-olds will keep that directive in mind when her best friend, Cayla, asks for her mommy’s name and where she works? You’re right – Zero. And, who’s watching for the person who’s truly directing Cayla to ask the questions spouting from her plastic mouth?
After all, it could be the kidnapper/rapist sitting inside the ice cream truck parked at the curb—the creepy guy who just learned from your 9-year-daughter that her mommy will out for a couple of hours, but her 12-year-old sister is babysitting, and sure, they both like ice cream. And, of course she promised her friend Cayla that would not tell mom or dad.
So … as soon as you’re out the door and out of sight, Mr. Stranger arrives at the front door with ice cream, balloons, and candy in hand …
Hackers gain access to these dolls via Bluetooth connection
The dolls are connected to an app (typically a parent sets it up on their phone(s). Once accessed, the dolls are in the control the hacker, and the information received is theirs to do with as they wish.
Data received and recorded can also be “voiceprint” for future access to “locations” without having to be physically present.
*Source – Consumerist, NPR, Washington Post… and me.