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Nation & World

Warning: Toys might be invading your children's privacy

Illinois group issues alert about smart toys

CHICAGO – Parents have a new worry when it comes to holiday shopping for the young people on their list this year – so-called connected toys that may invade children’s privacy.

For the first time, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group Education Fund is alerting parents to be cautious about smart toys that collect data. The group releases an annual toy safety survey each year, available at toysafetytips.org

This year the group cited as an example a doll called “My Friend Cayla,” which the organization said has already been banned in Germany for privacy violations and is the subject of a complaint by several consumer groups to the Federal Trade Commission.

The doll connects with an app via Bluetooth, and can talk and interact, play games, share photos and read stories, according to the toy’s website. The doll, however, records conversations between it and children and asks children for personal information, such as their mom and dad’s names, school names and locations, according to a complaint filed late last year with the FTC by groups including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and Consumers Union.

The company behind the toy, Genesis Toys, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.

“There is a digital privacy concern but also a very real physical safety concern that could put children in danger,” said Abe Scarr, director of the education fund, about connected toys.

Earlier this year, the FBI issued a notice to parents to consider cybersecurity when buying toys that are smart, Internet-connected or interactive.

Toy safety

Additionally, the research education fund cited toys containing lead, powerful magnets, batteries that can overheat and small parts and balloons that could lead to choking. The report cited two models of fidget spinners previously sold at Target as examples of toys containing lead. Those spinners have since been pulled from Target’s shelves, Scarr said.

The fund also says parents should be wary of excessively loud toys that can cause hearing loss, such as toy phones, and cited balloon toys that can become stuck in children’s throats. Some balloon toys are marketed to children under 8 or have warning labels that make it appear that they are safe for children between ages 3 and 8, according to the report.

“The good news is toys on the shelves are safer than they have ever been,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger. “The bad news is there are toys that can still sneak through and expose our children to real hazards.”

SAFE SHOPPING GUIDE

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released the annual Safe Shopping Guide listing toys and children’s products that have been recalled over the last year.

Go to shawurl.com/36rr to view the report.

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©2017 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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