Consumers Union renews call for FTC to investigate reports of security, privacy concerns with smartwatches for kids

Experts

Policy Counsel

December 7, 2017

Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, today renewed its call for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate reports of security flaws and unreliable safety functions in certain smartwatches for kids, citing new problems reported by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC).

In October, a coalition of leading U.S. child advocacy, consumer and privacy groups sent a letter to the FTC asking the agency to investigate reported problems with some smartwatches sold by Caref and SeTracker. Testing commissioned by the NCC found that strangers could easily hack into and take control of the watches, and use them to track and listen to children wearing the devices.

In response to the NCC report, the manufacturers said the issues were fixed. Based on the severity of the issues, NCC commissioned a new technical test, and it said its results show that not only were some problems still present, additional issues had appeared.

In its most recent test, NCC said it found that the new version of the Caref watch stores the voice messages of parents and kids on an openly available web server, and it comes with a significantly more expensive phone subscription. In addition, NCC said it found the new version of SeTracker’s app—GPSforalle—that works with the watches has similar security flaws as the previous version.

Katie McInnis, technology policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “These new reports have only intensified the concerns about these smartwatches. The potential privacy and security threats to kids are serious, and they demand action. When a company sells a connected device aimed at children, it has a heightened obligation to ensure that the product is safe. The latest information suggests that some problems have persisted and new concerns have surfaced, and we strongly recommend the FTC step in and investigate the issues with these products.”

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Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org