miércoles, 13 de diciembre de 2017

Digital Xmas

Christmas are around the corner. Shopping malls are crowded of people rushing from one shop to another and e-commerce sites are changing its face including  season images as Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men to attract more customers.  As it happens year after year, we will buy  this week the main part of our Christmas presents, an important part of them are targeted to kids and children. Even for them, those with digital features are the gifts which are more awaited.

Smart adjective has started to appear jointly with the word toys. Cameras, wifi connectivity and bluetooth links pave the way to a new a generation of toys that can collect images, voices, personal information and location from their little owners in almost real time. The market is gorwing at a quickpace. Accordingly with a report published by Juniper Research last summer, Smart Toy sales will reach $15.5 billion in hardware and app content revenues by 2022, up from an estimated $4.9 billion in 2017

The threefold growth of smart toys business is driving by the early unlimited access that children have to their parents smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, there is a growing base of children under six that owns their own smartphone or tablet that will be around 90% in 2020. Right now, nearly half of them has their own smartphone when they are 10 years old, almost all of them with the same features as their parents.

A growing supply industry and a thriving demand base will have as a consequence a proliferation of smart toys at our home. The emerge of this new wave of children´s companion has been so fast that we are not yet used to pay attention and demand information about with which data retention rules are embedded in their smartness and  with whom they shared the data they collect. As some field studies show, some times both parents and children are unprepared to manage the associated risks.

Consumer associations in Europe and America has started to warn on the risks after testing several smart toys. The lab work shows that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Nothing new, the experts has been calling for more attention on Internet of the Things vulnerabilities for a long time. But this time could be more serious, hackers speaking with our children paves the way for a whole collection to social engineer attacks that could take full advantage the kids naivety.

Slowly, but those responsible to take care of citizens safety in this area are starting to take measures. Norwegian consumer agency is beginning to do intensive test to smart toys and has discovered vulnerabilities on them. German agency even is banning some this connected toys due to the cybersecurity risks.  At the other side of the Atlantic, the warnings came from the FBI who calls "consumers to consider cyber security prior to introducing smart, interactive, internet-connected toys into their homes or trusted environments."

As when we face any other challenge related with digitalisation, we should not let ourselves be driven by luddism. The consumer note published by FBI provide a full complete list of the actions we can do by ourselves in order to provide our kids safely with a digital companion for their games. Basically, as with everything, we have to know what we are buying. 

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