The German government isn’t just banning some children’s smartwatches — its telling people to “destroy” the gadgets already circulating around the country.
On Friday, Germany’s telecom regulator the Federal Network Agency announced that a number of these devices, designed for ages 5 to 12, can allow someone to remotely tap into the watch’s microphone and clandestinely spy from remote locations (just like a wiretap). The regulator isn’t just concerned about the potential of people spying on children — it’s concerned the devices can be used to spy on anyone.
And in Germany, it’s illegal to record private conversations without permission.
“According to our investigations, parents were using the watches, for example, to listen in on teachers during class,” said Federal Network Agency President Jochen Homann in a statement.
Smartwatches that make phone calls, like the Apple Watch, are legal in Germany. The problem with many of the children’s smartwatches, however, is the devices have a classic snooping function, similar to a baby monitor, which can be easily activated just by using an app.
“Via an app, parents can use such children’s watches to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment and they are to be regarded as an unauthorized transmitting system,” said Homann.
The German regulator is so serious about destroying these devices, it’s asking citizens to literally document the watches’ destruction and to file evidence online. Once the watches are destroyed, the regulator will provide a “certificate of destruction,” confirming the deed was done.
This isn’t the first time the Federal Network Agency told German citizens to destroy a consumer device. In February, the regulator prohibited the doll “My Friend Cayla” and labeled it as an “espionage device.” Apparently, the dolls were fitted with radio transmission technology that could allow children to be spied on.
Beware consumer tech manufacturers: The German government won’t just ban devices that facilitate spying, they’ll demand the devices be smashed with hammer (or whatever means of destruction one prefers) — even if they’re dolls.