Over the weekend, Germany’s telecom regulator, the Federal Network Agency, has banned the sales of all smartwatches to kids and is urging parents to destroy their kid’s smartwatches after it was discovered that many of the devices made for children are at risk of being hacked. Similar to a wiretap, hackers could hack into the watch’s microphone without the user knowing, giving them the ability to listen in on conversations and track a user’s location. It is not clear which specific models were at fault, hence the blanket ban on kids’ smartwatches in Germany.
The Federal Network Agency isn’t just concerned about strangers using the watch to listen in on unsuspecting kids, they also fear that parents might be using their kid’s watch for their own benefit. Essentially, a child’s watch can function similarly to a baby monitor, allowing people to eavesdrop on conversations without any detection by simply signing into an app. According to the Federal Network Agency, some parents are already trying to take advantage of this new tool for spying.
“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,” said Federal Network Agency President Jochen Homann in a statement.
No matter your feelings about using technology to spy on your kids, recording a private conversation is very much illegal in Germany. That’s the real reason the Federal Network Agency is not just putting a halt to sales, but urging parents to destroy their kid’s smartwatches. In fact, the German regulator is asking parents to upload videos or photos of them destroying the device and will send a “certificate of destruction” to anyone who posts it online.
This is not the first time Germany has had to stop people from spying on kids. Back in February, the Federal Network Agency labeled the doll “My Friend Cayla” as an “espionage device,” as the dolls were secretly had transmission devices that would allow kids to be spied on without their knowledge.
This story is still developing and there are more questions than answers for now, such as: Which specific smartwatches are being tracked? By what means are hackers accessing them? Are devices sold in the United States are impacted? How exactly Germany plans to actually enforce banning the sale of smartwatches to kids? Look back here for more updates as the answers become more clear.