FTC Urged To Investigate Smartwatches For Kids

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether smartwatches for children pose security and privacy risks.

"Any watch that jeopardizes a child’s safety should not be sold in the U.S.," the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG write in a letter to the FTC.

The groups say the Norwegian Consumer Council recently scrutinized four smartwatches for children -- meaning that the devices are worn by children, but also allow parents to track the wearers' physical locations via apps. At least two of the watches examined "allow a potential attacker to take control of the apps," the groups write.

In addition, safety features -- like an SOS button for children to press in emergencies -- are unreliable, according to the watchdogs.

The advocacy groups also say that one of the companies allows data from children to be used for marketing, and that a second transmits location data in unencrypted form.

In the U.S., the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits website developers from collecting personal data from children younger than 13, including geolocation data and some forms of marketing data, without their parents' permission.

The watches named examined by the Norwegian Consumer Council are Caref/Gator, TickTalk/Xplora, SETracker/Wonlex, Tinitell. The advocacy groups say that several of those watches are available for sale in the U.S. Earlier this year, the Norwegian Consumer Council warned that the connected toy "My Friend Cayla" may pose a privacy risk by recording children's voices.

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