Perfect new toy for the surveillance age

In short:

  • “Hello, Barbie” eavesdrops on kids, sends what it hears to Mattel
  • Seeking to alleviate concerns over privacy, Mattel invoked ‘government standards’
  • We all laugh at the little joke

huewuruThis is the kind of toy that, a decade ago, would have been decried as creepy and weird and would likely have not made it from the planning stages. Probably the fact that it was green-lighted could be taken to mean that most of us aren’t fighting against the growing surveillance culture. We’re getting used to it. Taking it for granted.

This toy is getting a little scrutiny in the media. The Wash Post uses the word “creepy” in a headline (quoting critics), and Boing Boing’s Clive Thompson gets a chuckle out of Mattel’s defense of the toy.

Mattel is trying to defend how the toy listens to conversations happening around it, and then passing that data along via wifi to Mattel’s servers. “Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards,” they told the Wash Post.

To which Clive Thompson said:

In the post-Snowden period, citing “applicable government standards” as the moral floor below which one cannot sink — when you’re crafting a surveillance toy — is not super reassuring.

Indeed, our own government’s piss poor record on respect of individual privacy becomes worse and worse all the time. Invoking that same government is not helpful to Mattel’s claim that they have the utmost respect for privacy.

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