Germany bans kids smartwatches, asks parents to destroy them

Garmany’s Telecoms regulator the Federal Network Agency (The Bundesnetzagentur) which oversees the country’s telecommunications has banned smartwatches for kids in the country calling them spying devices. It has also urged parents to destroy these watches mostly used by children between the ages of 5 and 12 years.

The decision came months after the agency banned “My Friend Cayla Doll” citing that the smart toy conducts surveillance, listens to kids conversations and responds to them in real-time. Bundesnetzagentur described the doll as an authentic example of “unauthorized wireless transmitting equipment.”

In the latest decision, the agency also described these watches as “unauthorized transmitters.” Bundesnetzagentur President Jochen Homann stated, “According to our investigations, parents were using the watches, for example, to listen in on teachers during class.” 

While authorities are asking parents to get rid of these watches, a crackdown against some of the firms selling them online has already been initiated. Schools in the country are also asked to be more vigilant about using such watches. 

“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.

According to Bundesnetzagentur’s press release, these watches have a SIM card and a limited telephony function, which are set up and controlled via an app. Such a monitoring function is often referred to as a “baby monitor” or “monitor function.” The app owner can specify that the watch, unnoticed by the carrier,  calls any phone number. This enables him to listen unnoticed to the conversations of the watch wearer and his environment. Such a monitoring function is prohibited in Germany.

In October this year, consumer watchdog Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) said that there are some severe security flaws in smartwatches for kids that can be exploited, hacked and tracked the current location of kids and trick their parents to display a different location. The watches tested by researchers were equipped with real-time location tracking and facilitated two-way calls with some selected contacts. 

“If buyers of such watches are known to the Federal Network Agency, they ask them to destroy the clock and send proof of this to the Federal Network Agency,”Bundesnetzagentur

NCC also found out that these smartwatches store and transmit data without encryption that once exploited can pose a serious threat. “It’s very serious when products that claim to make children safer instead put them at risk because of poor security and features that do not work properly. Importers and retailers must know what they stock and sell. These watches have no place on a shop’s shelf, let alone on a child’s wrist,” said NCC’s Finn Myrstad.

In a Tweet, Myrstad revealed that Danish Consumer Council has also filed a complaint to authorities against kids smartwatches. 

Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.