Are smartwatches, smartphones, and tablets designed for kids something that is really necessary? We suppose we can’t blame manufacturers for trying to cover all their bases, but over in Germany it seems that the authorities aren’t too thrilled about certain device capabilities and have recently banned the sales of some smartwatches aimed at children over privacy and security concerns. This ban targets kids smartwatches that have eavesdropping capabilities.
In fact the country’s Federal Network Agency has gone as far as urging parents who own such devices to “destroy them” and provide proof of destruction. Why destroy them? Because under the new regulation, the possession of such devices is now illegal, along with the production (in Germany), importation and import.
According to Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency, “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. According to our research, parents’ watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom.”
German authorities say that smart watches that allow recording and transmitting (via the cellular network) audio ” are regarded as unauthorized transmitting equipment”, according to the Federal Network Agency of Germany (the Bundesnetzagentur). They are Prohibited listening devices, or “spying devices” one could argue.
The agency has also stated that they have taken action against several companies who offer such devices on the internet. They are also urging schools to “pay more attention” to such devices used by students.
That being said, this isn’t the first time that smart devices aimed at kids have come under fire over privacy concerns. Earlier this year Germany also banned a “smart” doll from being sold, and just last month toymaker Mattel announced their decision to cancel an upcoming smart speaker for kids after some have questioned the company on their plans on how they plan to store and protect the data that it collects.
Bear in mind that not all kids smart watches are banned. Just those that could allow eavesdropping. Contrary to other reports, this is not a blanket ban on Kids smartwatches, nor on smartwatches that have telecommunication capabilities. The authorities define prohibited Kids watch as (machine-translated):
“Basically watches with integrated mobile phone are not covered by 90 TKG . However, if the watch also has an interception function (often referred to as ” voice monitoring “, ” babyphone function “, ” one-way conversation “) in addition to the normal telephone function, this is prohibited”