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German Regulator Bans ‘Eavesdropping’ Smart Watches for Children; Recommends Destroying Them

Liviu ARSENE

November 20, 2017

German Regulator Bans ‘Eavesdropping’ Smart Watches for Children; Recommends Destroying Them

German regulatory agency Bundesnetzagentur recently reviewed a series of smart watches intended for children between 5 and 10, and banned them throughout the country for having eavesdropping capabilities that are explicitly prohibited.

The Bundesnetzagentur-reviewed smart watches have SIM capabilities, letting parents remotely instruct them to call a predefined number. This feature would allow parents to listen in on children’s conversation without the smart watch giving any prior warning or notification to the kids.

The German agency’s investigation also revealed that parents were using the eavesdropping functionalities of these smart watches to listen in on conversations with teachers during classes.

“Parents can use these children’s watches to listen in to the child’s surroundings without detection via an app. The watches are regarded as unauthorised transmitting equipment,” said Jochen Homann, Bundesnetzagentur President. “Our investigations found, for example, that parents were using them to eavesdrop on teachers in lessons.”

The possession, production, distribution and import of espionage equipment falls under the German’s Telecommunication acts (TKG), which bans remote surveillance equipment that could affect someone’s privacy. The destruction of these devices must be proven to Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) by presenting a destruction certificate from a waste management station, or the users could risk fines of up to 25,000 euros.

“The Bundesnetzagentur advises schools, in particular, to be even more aware of pupils owning watches with a listening function,” reads the official statement. “If the Bundesnetzagentur has knowledge of the buyers of such devices, it tells them to destroy the watches and send evidence of this to the authority. It is recommended for parents to take responsibility for destroying the devices themselves and to keep proof of this.”

The regulator said it has also started taking action against similar products currently available in Germany, in an attempt protect user privacy.

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