Look for these words in small print
If you can take the time to read the fine print, keep these questions in mind:
There are keywords you have to look for: “Data” is the biggest one. Cross recommends doing a Ctrl-F search to read each instance of “data”. You can also find the words “microphone”, “camera” and “location”. To find out how data is shared, search for “vendors”, “third parties”, “marketing” or “advertiser”.
It is important to recognize that reading the fine print is only available to parents who have the luxury of time to weed through the dense legal language that is not always offered in languages other than English.
A good sign of a well thought out privacy toy is that the fine print is easy to find and easy to read. “If it’s not in legal language and you can figure out what’s going on, that’s usually a pretty good sign that they’re trying to be transparent,” Cross says.
Perform an Augmented Reality Check
You have probably already heard about augmented and mixed reality games such as Pokemon Go, Mario Kart Live Home Trackor Lego AR App. Perhaps your family already has a virtual reality headset. As sophisticated augmented reality toys become more popular, it’s becoming increasingly important to be aware of the data they collect.
Augmented Reality, or XR, relies heavily on sensor data. “XR uses this data to accurately place the user in a virtual space and provide more realistic sound effects and interaction support,” said Daniel Berrick, policy adviser at The Future of the Privacy Forum, whose work focuses on technology law and consumer privacy issues. This means that the device tracks body and eye movements, as well as the environment, to make gameplay more immersive – after all, a VR headset needs to track how your child’s body moves in order to complete the game. Fruit Ninja or Beat Saber. Devices also collect usage and cross-app data, such as how long a user spends on an activity and what content they interact with. It will also use location data.
If you’re evaluating XR devices or games for your kids, be especially vigilant when switching data resolutions. (More on that in the next section.) Since XR games tend to be more immersive and potentially more intense, Berrick recommends checking the maturity rating to make sure the experience is right for your child.
Lock down privacy settings
If your toy has privacy settings, make sure you set it to collect as little data as possible, Cross says. Some toys may have parental controls that help you monitor your children’s activities or limit the time they spend with the toy. Consider including them too. Take every opportunity to set up secure passwords and multi-factor authentication.
“Don’t be afraid to make up information” if a companion site or app asks you for personal information about your child, Cross says. The site or app may ask for a child’s date of birth to ensure they are old enough to use it. You are not required to provide an exact or even exact date of birth.
Sometimes toys collect data to make the game more fun or exciting. For example, eye tracking in VR games makes player avatars more realistic. Berrick recommends weighing what’s right for your child, given their age and the nature of their play. Does the game allow players to interact with other users over the Internet? If so, you can set stricter limits. Do your kids play alone or only with trusted friends? You may want to consider easing up on digital occasions.
Keep track of game time
Have you gone so far and decided to leave the smart toy at home? Just make sure the game time is in a controlled environment. If you don’t want to leave a small child at home alone with a baseball bat within reach, don’t leave them alone with a potentially hackable toy.
It’s entirely possible that kid-friendly technology will inspire all the joy and imagination you could want in a toy, just by fiddling with the fine print and the ever-present shadow of privacy risks. Or you can just buy them a good old analog skateboard.