We reported last month ago about the release of Mattel’s new Hello Barbie (and the “Hell No Barbie Campaign”), with the capability to ‘carry a conversation’ with a child using speech recognition software and storage of conversations in the cloud. This week, in Los Angeles Superior Court, two moms filed a class action on behalf of their minor children against Mattel, ToyTalk and the kidSAFE Seal Program for talking Hello Barbie’s invasion of children’s privacy. Plaintiffs, Ashley Archer-Hayes (Archer-Hayes) and Charity Johnson (Johnson) allege that Mattel has caused emotional distress and loss of privacy, and that Mattel has misled consumers by stating that the doll (and its technology) complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Mattel does state on its website that Hello Barbie complies with COPPA requirements; however, Archer-Hayes and Johnson disagree. While COPPA restricts collection of personal information from children under the age of 13 without prior, verifiable parental consent, Hello Barbie can record children’s’ voices without any such checks or balances, and that Mattel and ToyTalk should have known, say the plaintiffs, that children would play with the doll with other children, who would also be recorded, without any parental consent or the parents’ ability to make choices about what happens to that data that is collected from their children. Plaintiff moms say that the companies should have come up with a process that would recognize when someone other than the Hello Barbie’s owner was being recorded and delete those recordings.
Plaintiffs’ attorney says, “This lawsuit should not be mistaken for a frivolous complaint over a toy. Providing hackers , who know no bounds in their invasive activities, with potential interactive access to any child or adult is in proximity of a doll, is a very serious matter, and dictates the very highest safeguards and warnings available.” We will watch and see where this one goes as the case (and the holiday sales season) progresses.