“Hello Barbie” bothers me but not because she’s a potential corporate spy.

At this point I just assume wherever I am that I’m being recorded with either audio, video, or both.  Don’t you?  And more and more it seems plausible that the devices we have in our homes can easily be used to record our conversations without our knowledge or permission.  And speaking of recording everything we say…

Barbie has gotten a high-tech make-over, it seems:

“A spokeswoman for the toymaker Mattel said the company has received numerous requests for a Barbie doll that kids can actually talk to. With its latest product, Hello Barbie, kids will be able to tell the doll whatever’s on their mind and even hear Barbie’s response…The tech-enhanced version of the classic toy will be equipped with a microphone so that it can pick up the audio from what kids are saying. The words will then be transmitted back to a cloud server where the speech will be recorded and processed so Barbie can respond.”

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution is horrified by this doll and concludes:

The scope of potential abuse of this new toy boggles the mind. Only a stupid fool would have one of these dolls in their homes.

Patrice’s concerns center on the fact that this thing can be used to record everything that’s going on in the home.  But so much of what we have in our homes could already be used for that, and not just our laptops and i-Devices.  Wifi refrigerators and other appliances are already beginning to come onto the market; as IB2 noted, pretty much any product including your TV has the potential to be used to spy on you:

With the NSA, drones, and now wifi barbie, nobody is hiding anywhere. Ever again. If Elf on the Shelf isn’t watching you, that little camera on your laptop can be activated by any unemployed basement dweller with half a brain. There are tracking devices on our license plates, our money, our cell phones […] my TV was made in China and the little green light glows even when the thing is off. I assume the entire Chinese government is probably spying on me.

The most likely reason is for marketing purposes, but that’s small comfort.

The reason Hello Barbie bothers me isn’t because she can record the conversations going on at home. I mean, yes, that does bother me, but when even your kitchen appliances can potentially do that, it makes Hello Barbie nothing special.  What bothers me is the way she is so obviously going to be used to market to children:

Kids might find the technology fascinating, but already some critics have raised privacy concerns.

Angela Campbell of the Georgetown University Center on Privacy and Technology said she’s worried that children’s conversations will be analyzed for commercial purposes. Campbell pointed out that in Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks questions that could prompt a lot of information about a child, her interests and even her family.

I mean she talks back to your kids, for Pete’s sake!  I’m pretty sure she isn’t going to be doling out good advice or helping kids study their times tables.  When Janie pours out her heart about how sad she is now that Mommy and Daddy don’t live in the same house anymore, is Hello Barbie going to be talking about how a new Barbie Dream Home will make Janie feel so much better?

One of the major reasons we choose not to have TV is because of that “marketing to children” aspect.  We have an old TV with no antenna or digital converter box which we hooked up to a DVD player just so we could watch movies without having to see commercials.

Everything in my house can already potentially record me, but not everything in my house can talk back and try to turn my children into Consume-o-Bots.  And that is the reason Hello Barbie will not be welcome in our home.