Unveiled last month, Hello Barbie is a clever toy with a little bit of an oversharing problem. With a microphone, Hello Barbie can listen to what children tell it. With a computer and a Wi-Fi connection, Hello Barbie can take those words, encrypt them, and then send them over the internet to a cloud server where voice recognition software listens to the recording and then picks a reply for Hello Barbie to send back. Only there's a minor hitch: it might be illegal to record children and then store that information elsewhere.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which became law in April 2000, sets out strict rules for obtaining information from minors online. These rules prohibit the collection of information from children under the age of 13 unless there is parental consent, plus a way for the parents to find out what information was collected and then obtain that information, or unless the information is used to respond to the child as a one-off and isn't stored in a retrievable way. Oren Jacob is the CEO of ToyTalk, the company that partnered with Mattel to create Hello Barbie.