The creepy part is that a stranger could easily hijack Cayla via smartphone through her Bluetooth connection, a factor that puts the children playing with her at risk. After a report exposed these security problems, Germany, Amazon and Walmart banned the doll.
Currently, there are only a few rules protect people’s online privacy and security.
Merely connecting to the Internet exposes you to danger. When you install an app on your phone, you agree to its terms of service, but do you actually read them? Consumer watchdog Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad and his team printed out and read aloud the terms of service for all the apps on an average person’s phone which are more than 900 pages and took nearly 32 hours to complete. Comprehending them would have taken even longer.
Alas, Internet companies have been arguing for decades against regulation since customers agree to their terms of service. But do customers really know what they’re consenting to? Why should it be the consumer’s responsibility to decipher terms? Terms should be easier to understand.
Consider online dating. While reviewing one of the world’s most popular dating app interfaces, researchers found a pre-selected box that grants the company access to all of a customer’s Facebook photos. The terms assigned the company “irrevocable…perpetual” rights to all posted content.
This trend has some potentially malignant implications.
For instance, marketers could use your information to target you with ad offers that exploit their current emotional state. Companies could use data from your fitness app to deny you insurance coverage. Some companies strive to be trustworthy. Dating apps universally changed their terms after Myrstad’s team challenged them legally.
But consumers can’t be expected to police this problem. When people suspect they are being surveilled, they modify their behaviour. Companies can build trust when they put security considerations and customer privacy first.
Arguably, it’s the job of the government to enforce rules better. And every citizen can remind government and business alike that their right to privacy deserves respect.