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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘Smart’ doll is a good listener — and transmitter

doll that records and transmits what it hears is an espionage device, German officials have concluded. “My Friend Cayla” is now banned in Germany, reports Bill Chappell on NPR.  The doll also is vulnerable to hacking, Cayla’s critics charge.

The doll isn’t sold in U.S. stores, but is available on Amazon.

Linking Cayla to a smart phone app makes the doll interactive. It also means whatever’s said to the doll will be sent to Nuance, a U.S. company that also maintains a voice-recognition database used by law enforcement, military and intelligence agencies.

Nuance “does not share voice data collected from or on behalf of any of our customers with any of our other customers,” according to a company statement.

U.S. privacy advocates have complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Cayla is recording children’s conversations, reports Brian Naylor.

Ask her, say, “Can I tell you a secret?” And the doll responds: “Sure go ahead; be very quiet, though. I promise not to tell anyone; it’s just between you and me because we are friends.”

But it’s not.

Others say Cayla is a stealth marketing gimmick. “For example, Cayla will happily talk about how much she loves different Disney movies,” Norway’s Consumer Council says. “Meanwhile, the app-provider has a commercial relationship with Disney.”

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