In one of the creepier consumer moves of recent times, Mattell has launched a new Barbie doll that can record children’s voices and upload them to the internet. Come Autumn of 2015, the ‘Hello Barbie’ doll will facilitate two-way conversations between children and their dolls, serving as one of the stranger Orwellian surveillance tools of recent years.
Truth be told, we have no evidence that the dolls will actually be spying on the kids, but they will certainly be archiving the information, likely for sale to data mining companies.
The toy was originally used at charities; then parents made the unnerving discovery that in order for the doll to work, their children’s voices had to be uploaded to the internet via wifi. The doll ‘listens’ to the kids, transmits their words to the cloud and then issues a response based on….we’re not sure.
Here’s the video. As you watch it, notice how Barbie’s questions seek to garner personal information about the child, her interests and her family.
According to the site Metro.co.uk, Susan Linn, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said: “Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ aren’t only talking to a doll, they are talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial.”
Toys, especially dolls, are very easy to be construed as creepy–because they are handled primarily by children–but we believe this is a clear cut case of inappropriate data gathering and possibly direct surveillance. What do you think? Is this just outrageously disturbing, or is it just consumer America showing off its muscle?