Barbie records your child's conversations and your TV
listens in too. Is your company collecting personal information for
a reasonable purpose?
Yes, that's actually true. Mattel plans to release a
new creepy version of Barbie that will be able to have
conversations with children. Your child's voice is recorded by
a device in the doll and those recordings are sent over a server
and processed so Barbie can respond. It gets creepier as it's
planned that the doll can be updated over Wi-Fi so it can keep your
kid up to date on the latest trends.
And it's not only the privacy of small children at risk
these days. Certain Smart TVs now feature voice and gesture
recognition. Of course, that's nothing new and it's all
aimed at creating a better user experience. That said, Samsung has
recently come under the spotlight for its Smart TVs'
information collection activities and a look into its privacy
policies (at least in some countries) gives an insight into a
practice of large scale collection of juicy personal information:
anything said (or gestured) in front of one of Samsung's voice
recognition enabled Smart TVs can be collected by Samsung and
disclosed to a "third-party" which provides the voice
So, do Samsung or Mattel need to collect the information? This
is where the law steps in and waves its pointy finger about. The
Australian Privacy Principles state that entities must not collect
personal information unless the information is reasonably necessary
for the entity's functions or activities. This is regardless of
whether individuals consent to that collection. Can you ask
someone's marital status when he wants to open a bank account?
The Commissioner says no.
The Principles go a step further in respect of 'sensitive
information', additionally requiring the individual's
consent for that collection. And including consent in your privacy
policy is probably not enough – the individual must be
adequately informed before giving consent, and have the capacity to
understand. Will your kid really appreciate that she is telling her
secrets to a Fortune 500 company rather than just her new virtual
Sensitive information includes sexual orientation or practices,
political opinions, and health information. We reckon a camera and
microphone pointed at your couch, or a doll that records anything
your child says, can collect all of it. So, is the collection of
all your couch activities 'reasonably necessary' to provide
a voice activation service? Does Barbie really need to know about
your child's cold? We'll let the Privacy Commissioner
answer that one, but it's a strong reminder to businesses to
review their collection practices to make sure they're not
poking their noses in where they shouldn't.
We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're
quite proud of it really.
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Those types of personal disclosure may still be permitted under the Privacy Act as long as your house is in order.
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