The Latest Threat to Kids’ Privacy: Toys in the Cloud

By Nicholas Pell

You might think that programming your kid’s favorite doll to say her name is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. And you might be right, but it’s also a potential threat to their security -- and yours. While that new toy camera that comes with cloud storage might make your little one happy, it might also make them very unhappy if a privacy loophole is exploited. What are “toys in the cloud” and how can you let your kids enjoy them without their privacy being compromised?

What Are Toys in the Cloud?
Toys in the cloud are toys that use cloud-computing technology to enhance overall user experience. Put simply, information on the toy is shared jointly “in the cloud,” meaning on servers far, far away from the origin. Toys in the cloud, for example, take a photograph of your child’s room and will show their favorite cartoon character dancing around inside. But, as with all forms of cloud-based storage, the security and privacy risks might outweigh the fun.

Potential Problems With Toys in the Cloud
Toys in the cloud have the same security pitfalls as every other cloud-based storage. But for the most part, they’re pretty safe. Just make sure to use a secure password that you don’t share with anyone, and you probably don’t have to worry about getting hacked.

The problem comes in when large corporations want to use your children’s cloud storage data as a way to market to them. When you use any free online service, you’re not really getting them for free. On the contrary, you’re paying for them with valuable marketing data. That applies to your kids as much as it does you. And while there might be rules against your children signing up for Facebook before the age of 13, there’s no law prohibiting a company from using your child’s cloud-based data to market to them.

It gets worse. Your child’s data is only as secure as the cloud-based service hosting it. This means that if the company that manufactured the hot new toy gets hacked, your kid’s information might now be out there for identity thieves or worse.

Fun? Yes. Problematic? Maybe. With a new data breach being announced just about every month, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the potential hassle.

Nicholas Pell  is a freelance writer based in Hollywood, CA. He writes about music, personal finance and technology for publications such as LA Weekly, Salon and Business Insider. He’s been online since the days of Usenet groups and bulletin board systems.

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