Future of Privacy Forum Comment Regarding Senator Bill Nelson’s Report, “Children’s Connected Toys: Data Security and Privacy Concerns”

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Boy with toy robot

Today, Senator Nelson’s office released a report outlining several privacy and security implications of “connected toys” that the office identified based on conversations with six major toy manufacturers. The report emphasizes the unique sensitivity of children’s personal information; urges toymakers to build privacy and security into their toys from the inception; and suggests that the FTC has authority to monitor and bring enforcement actions under Section 5 and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

“Connected toys can help entertain and educate kids,” said Stacey Gray, Policy Counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum. “But, as Senator Nelson makes clear, companies cannot play around with children’s data. If toymakers run afoul of the strong requirements of COPPA, the monetary penalties can be financially devastating. Leading companies are building trust by providing enhanced disclosures and implementing strong security standards – others should follow suit. I commend Senator Nelson for pressing this important issue.”

Two weeks ago, FPF released a white paperKids & the Connected Home: Privacy in the Age of Connected Dolls, Talking Dinosaurs, and Battling Robots, detailing the privacy and security implications of the diverse range of “smart toys” and “connected toys” available today. The paper provides a thorough legal analysis of how COPPA applies to connected toys. Further, FPF urges companies to provide enhanced disclosures regarding their toys. For example, although not required by COPPA, companies can provide notices on toy packaging that make it easy for parents to understand at the point of sale whether they will be asked to consent to the toy’s collection of their child’s information. Finally, the paper details a number of important security steps that leading toy manufacturers are taking; Senator Nelson’s report mentions several of these steps, for example, implementing strong security standards (HTTPS / SSL) to prevent toys from communicating with unauthorized devices or servers.

The future for connected toys is promising. Toymakers that follow leading privacy and security best practices, including those described in Kids & the Connected Home and Senator Nelson’s report, will mitigate financial risks under COPPA and support a thriving connected toy marketplace.