The Europeans are getting really serious about the threat of smartwatches spying on kids. Should we be concerned here in America?
Germany bans the sale of kids’ smartwatches
They burned books in Alexandria. They burned rock n’ roll records in the mid-’60s across the Bible Belt. Now, German regulators are telling parents to destroy the smartwatches on their kids’ wrists because of security concerns.
The Federal Network Agency (FNA) — a German telecom regulator — is calling on parents whose children have smartwatches to render the devices “harmless” by destroying them, the BBC reports.
German regulators are also banning the further sale of these devices aimed at kids.
“Via an app, parents can use such children’s watches to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment and they are to be regarded as an unauthorized transmitting system,” said FNA president Jochen Homann.
Homann’s organization has also cautioned schools to be aware of the privacy threat these watches pose.
“According to our research, parents’ watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom.”
Regarding the extreme measure of destroying the watches, the following statement can be found in an English translation of the FNA’s press release:
“The Federal Network Agency specifically advises schools to pay more attention to watches with interception function among students. If buyers of such watches are known to the Federal Network Agency, they ask them to destroy the clock and send proof of this to the Federal Network Agency. Parents are therefore advised to make their own watches harmless and to keep records of destruction.”
Germany isn’t the only European nation up in arms about kids’ smartwatches.
In October, a consumer safety panel in Norway took issue with a few specific models.
The Norwegian Consumer Council singled out watches like the Xplora, a GPS watch that works in tandem with the Xplora T1 app; the Gator 22 (along with the Gator app); and the Tinitell and Viksfjord (with the accompanying SeTracker app) as examples of smartwatches for kids with gaping security holes.
The European IT community seems supportive of government regulation of the smartwatch industry for children.
“Poorly secured smart devices often allow for privacy invasion. That is really concerning when it comes to kids’ GPS tracking watches — the very watches that are supposed to help keep them safe,” Ken Munro, a security expert at U.K. IT security firm Pen Test Partners, told the BBC.
“There is a shocking lack of regulation of the ‘Internet of things’, which allows lax manufacturers to sell us dangerously insecure smart products. Using privacy regulation to ban such devices is a game-changer, stopping these manufacturers playing fast and loose with our kids’ security.”