In Germany it’s “illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess surveillance devices disguised as another object” which can have bigger repercussions than you realize. Children’s smartwatches (meaning smartwatches that are meant to be used by children) often have a listening function that the parent (or whomever has the paired companion app) can activate with the app and listen to what’s going on around the smartwatch.
That functionality can be called a “baby monitor” and be brushed aside as nothing more than that, but that’s not how it’s being used.
Child Privacy Concerns Over Everything
We’ve spoken about internet-connected toys that could potentially be used to spy/eavesdrop on children, but this is a step further. Basically, if I’m a parent I could tell my kid to wear his watch when they go to school, and I can enable my “baby monitor” whenever and start listening in to my child’s conversations, or whatever is going on around them. Including the teacher and other people’s conversation.
I’m not saying this to spark a debate over whether you should be able to listen in on your child’s every move, but that can definitely be considered spying on your child’s teacher. Or anybody else around them.
There are definitely positive situations for this function, but in Germany, spying on people without telling them is a big no-no. And thus, these devices are banned.
What does this mean here in the US?
Well realistically, nothing right now. It’s just interesting because Germany is very influential in Europe, so if the other EU countries were to follow their example it could have repercussions for the industry as a whole.
Given the recent history in the US regarding privacy, I doubt we would ever have the devices banned. However, functions that are borderline spying/surveillance involved in children’s products could definitely be a little harder to defend.
Using a baby monitor as intended is one thing, but when you can use it to spy on other people whenever you like, that’s a problem just waiting to happen.