Internet toys grant awarded to Western Australia's ECU

Nov 17, 2017

The internet can be a marvelous thing, helping us find information, directions, and other data when we need it, but few are so naive as to believe that the internet is hackproof or lacks vulnerabilities and software loopholes. When it comes to internet toys, the same view applies.

Western Australia's Edith Cowan University (ECU) has been granted an internet-connected toys grant in the amount of $350,000 to examine the risks and benefits regarding these new toys in an internet-connected age.

The specific intent is to look at the privacy risks associated with internet toys. Parents see these internet toys as gadgets for their children that bring additional functionality over "non-smart" toys, but parents aren't necessarily aware of the privacy risks and data exposure they could sign up for when purchasing these internet toys.

This internet toy study for Edith Cowan University will be headed up by Dr. Donnell Holloway, who argues that regulations should be in place with regard to the user data and kid information being obtained and processed by these internet toys.

Internet toys will likely connect to other internet toys, in the same way that internet-connected washing machines can tell adults when their dinner on their internet-connected stove is ready or when their favorite dessert is frozen enough and ready to serve. One such example of internet toy is dollhouses, that would likely have Barbie and Ken dolls tell you when the child's "Barbie House" meal is ready.

Internet toys such as the My Friend Cayla doll come with security issues. Internet-connected smartwatches were found to contain security vulnerabilities last month, Spiral Toys, the manufacturer of CloudPets, was discovered to have exposed 820,000 child voice recordings and user data last month.

Australia is taking a particular interest in the collection, storing, and sharing of kid data from these new gadgets. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner found last year that 71% of internet-connected devices are very vague on exactly how user data is collected, stored and shared. Just this week, the Internet of Things Alliance Australia published a data best practices guide with regard to accountability, cyber protection, customer data transparency, customer data control, and customer protection, among other factors.

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