“Hell No Barbie” Campaign Warns About “Hello Barbie”, a New Doll With Big Brother-ish Capabilities

The Vigilant Citizen

Hello Barbie will be available in stores right in time for the holidays. A campaign entitled “Hell No Barbie” however seeks to inform consumers that this doll has the potential to severely violate their privacy.

In an attempt to revitalize its Barbie brand, Mattel will soon launch Hello Barbie, a Wi-Fi-connected doll with artificial intelligence that “talks” to children by recording what they say and responding accordingly. All of the children’s interactions with the doll are recorded using a microphone and are sent to a remote server through Wi-Fi. The recorded voices are then interpreted by an algorithm in order to generate an appropriate response. While some might find this innovation fun and interesting, others see a big-brotherish nightmare as the toy has the capability to ask personal questions to little girls, record their answers (and everything else the mic picks up) to then transmit the information to a remote location.

Even the promotional video, that is meant to sell the doll, is actually rather creepy as it explains the numerous steps required to activate the doll : Downloading an app on a smartphone, creating an account using an e-mail address, connecting the doll to the home’s Wi-Fi network, etc. In short, well-meaning parents are actually taken through all of the steps required to turn this toy into a highly effective spy device that can pinpoint with exact accuracy who said what at what time and store all of that information on several databases.

Hello Barbie makes conversation using voice recognition technology.

When her microphone is turned on, the doll records its playmate’s voice. The child’s dialogue then travels over the internet to a server, which interprets it so Barbie can give a tailored, pre-recorded response. It’s similar to the way Apple’s interactive Siri works.

“Hello Barbie can interact uniquely with each child … sharing stories and even telling jokes!” explains the toymaker Mattel in an online ad.

Golin and his co-campaigners worry about hackers infiltrating children’s dialogue, which will be stored on a server. They also dislike that the recorded conversations will be monitored at times to improve the system.

“Having people listen to recordings [of children]talking intimately to a doll raises a whole host of questions,” said Golin.

A big concern is that information gleaned from conversations might be used for marketing purposes.

“Clearly this is going to be a trove of valuable information when you have a child talking perhaps for hours with a doll,” said Golin.

He also worries that Hello Barbie could be programmed to push products. “Mattel may be cutting deals for what products the doll is talking about,” he said.
– CBC, ‘Hell No Barbie’ campaign targets Hello Barbie over privacy concerns

Although Mattel guarantees that it won’t use the information collected for commercial purposes (to push other Mattel products), it is not guaranteeing full privacy neither. As I pointed out in my first article about Hello Barbie, the privacy policy of Toy Talk (the subdivision that handles Hello Barbie) states :

What Information Do We Share With Third Parties?

We will not share the personal information we collect through the Service with third parties, except as described in this Policy. For example, we may share personal information as follows:


when we believe in good faith that we are lawfully authorized or required to do so or that doing so is reasonably necessary or appropriate to (a) comply with any law or legal processes or respond to lawful requests or legal authorities, including responding to lawful subpoenas, warrants, or court orders;

The above provision is quite open-ended and dangerous as the information recorded by the doll could be sent to authorities, governments and other entities, if “required to”.


2 thoughts on ““Hell No Barbie” Campaign Warns About “Hello Barbie”, a New Doll With Big Brother-ish Capabilities

  1. Obviously I’d never bring anything like that into my house. But a cell phone, laptop, or any other gadget that has a microphone and a network connection can be used to spy on you just as easily as this doll can.

    The answer? Avoid saying anything within earshot of these devices unless you wouldn’t mind the Fedcoats or the pigs hearing you say it.

  2. How insidious! They’ve implanted computers in Barbies now? Look, watch her dance and talk like Lady Gaga, oh what an icon and positive model for our young daughters. Only good for one thing, target practice!

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