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FBI Warns Parents of Privacy Risks With Internet-Connected Toys

Conversations with an internet-connected toy could let hackers snoop on your child's name, school, likes and dislikes, the FBI said.
Image: Cayla Doll
The Cayla doll during a presentation of new toys for Christmas on Sept. 22, 2014 in Paris.Romuald Meigneux / Getty Image - SIPA file

The FBI is warning parents about the potential pitfalls of allowing their children to interact with internet-connected toys, noting a child's privacy and safety could be put at risk.

Conversations with an internet-connected toy could let hackers snoop on your child's name, school, location, likes, dislikes and location, according to a warning posted by the federal agency on Monday.

Many of these smart toys have a combination of sensors, cameras, microphones, data storage or other components, such as voice recognition and GPS, the warning said.

"These features could put the privacy and safety of children at risk due to the large amount of personal information that may be unwittingly disclosed," the FBI said.

Robert Siciliano, CEO of, told NBC News that "the FBI coming forward with this announcement is definitely concerning."

Related: Internet of Things: Have We Bitten Off More Than We Can Chew?

"Most people recognize at this point that any internet-connected PC, mobile phone or any IOT [internet of things] device is at risk," he said. "But 'connected toy' is a bit disarming and parents may not realize their child's vulnerabilities."

Earlier this year, Germany banned sales of a smart doll named Cayla over hacking concerns.

The FBI warning does not mention any specific toy makers; however, parents are being urged to do their due diligence if they allow their child to have internet-connected toys.

That means finding out a company's privacy practice and know where any data collected by a smart toy is sent and stored, including whether the company uses third-party services. The FBI also recommends keeping tabs on your child's interactions with their toy via an accompanying parent app, if available.

The FBI also recommends following a few other cyber security best practices, something Siciliano said is vital to safeguard privacy for the whole family.

Parents "should further make sure that the device firmware is updated, their own PCs are properly protected, and the Wi-Fi is secure," he said. "And use strong passwords."

And finally, when those smart toys aren't in use: Turn them off.