MyFriend Cayla And i-Que Robot ‘Smart Toys’ Accused Of Beaming Child Voice Data To Defense Contractor

Is this real life or an Orwellian nightmare? You might want to think twice before purchasing a MyFriend Cayla or i-Que Robot. The smart toys have been accused of sending information to the Massachusetts-based company Nuance Communication. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), and Consumers Union filed a complaint against Genesis Toys and Nuance Communication with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this morning.


The MyFriend Cayla and the i-Que Robot used voice recognition to listen to the children who play with them. The toys connect via Bluetooth to a mobile app. The app records conversations between the toys and the kids, and uses speech-to-text protocols to answer the questions the children ask their toys. Both toys, especially the Cala doll, ask very personal questions such as the child’s name, the parents’ names, their school name, and their hometown, in order to have more “natural” conversations.

The recordings are sent to a third-party Nuance Communication. Nuance Communication is a massive corporation that is best known for its Dragon-branded suite of speech-to-text dictation software. It also sells healthcare diction technology and is a defense contractor that sells voice biometric solutions to military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies.

i robot

Both companies have been accused of violating laws relating to children’s online privacy. Companies who gather data regarding children must provide notice to, and obtain consent from parents about their privacy practices. Parents have the right to review their children’s data and have it deleted, or not have it shared with third parties. The terms of service from both companies are long, difficult to find, and subject to change without notice. The Bluetooth connections are also terribly insecure.

The complaint asks for the FTC to investigate Nuance and Genesis’ actions, halt anything illegal or unethical, and provide “other relief” as “necessary and appropriate.” Nuance and Genesis have yet to issue a response.
Tags:  FTC, spying, smart toys