Faced with pushback from advocacy groups and lawmakers, Mattel reportedly has decided against releasing Aristotle, a connected device for children.
The gadget, often referred to as Alexa for kids, was touted as both baby monitor and voice-controlled computer. It was intended to stay in children's bedrooms from birth through adolescence.
Advocacy groups were alarmed by the WiFi-enabled device, arguing that it would subject kids to unwelcome surveillance. "Aristotle isn’t a nanny, it’s an intruder," reads a petition authored by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood in July. Children’s bedrooms should be free of corporate snooping."
The group argued that Aristotle would collect and store data about children's activity, which potentially could be used for ad targeting. This week, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and The Story of Stuff Project said that more than 15,000 people signed a petition asking Mattel not to release Aristotle.
Also this week, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) questioned Mattel CEO Margaret Georgiadias about the device, saying it "has the potential to raise serious privacy concerns."
"It appears that never before has a device had the capability to so intimately look into the life of a child," the lawmakers said in a letter to Georgiadias.
Mattel hasn't yet responded to MediaPost's questions, but the company told the Washington Post that Aristotle didn't "fully align" with a new technology strategy. The Post also reported that new Chief Technology Officer Sven Gerjets, who joined the company in July, decided against selling the device.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood cheered news of the decision. “This is a tremendous victory for everyone who believes children still have a right to privacy and that essential caregiving functions should never be outsourced to robots," Executive Director Josh Golin stated. "The backlash against Aristotle should send a strong message to other toymakers and tech companies with plans for their own surveillance devices for young children.”