Germany Bans High-Tech Doll

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. spy / spaɪ / (n) – a person who secretly gathers information

    His pen was actually a spy gadget and had a recording device.

  2. converse / kənˈvɜrs / (v) – to talk to someone

    The two sisters always conversed about politics.

  3. vulnerable / ˈvʌl nər ə bəl / (adj) – defenseless from harm

    Without a security guard, a store would be vulnerable to crimes.

  4. hacking / ˈhæk ɪŋ / (n) – the act of stealing information through technology

    They hired an expert in hacking to help with the investigation.

  5. listen in / ˈlɪs ən ɪn / (phrasal) – to listen to a conversation you are not part of

    The child was scolded after he listened in on the conversation.


Read the text below.

The German government has banned the My Friend Cayla /ˈkeɪ lə/ doll due to its similarity to spy gadgets.

A statement from the German Federal Network Agency said that the doll can be classified as a spy gadget because it has microphones and can transmit data through the Internet. According to German law, anyone who will be caught selling or using such a device can be fined or put to jail.

My Friend Cayla is a doll that can converse with children using several high-tech features. It is programmed to connect to another gadget, such as a smartphone, through Bluetooth. When a child talks to it, the doll connects to the My Friend Cayla app installed on the gadget. The app will then use the Internet to search for an appropriate response. Afterwards, the doll will say the response so that the child feels as if it were a real person.

However, according to the government, the doll’s high-tech features also make it vulnerable to hacking. The doll lacks password protection and can be accessed via Bluetooth by anyone within 15 meters of it. Once hacked, the doll can be used by other people to talk to children or to listen in on conversations.

Ken Munro, a security researcher who has successfully hacked a My Friend Cayla doll, demonstrated its dangers. In several interviews, Munro showed how easily he can hack into the doll’s software and change its response to something inappropriate.

Meanwhile, Vivid Toy Group, the creators of the doll, responded to Munro’s hacking demonstration. The toy company claims that the hacking was only possible because Munro was an expert. However, Vivid Toy Group said that it intends to upgrade the app in the future to prevent such incidents from happening.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• What can parents who bought the doll do to ensure their child’s safety?
• Do you think toy companies should create products like My Friend Cayla? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• What are other examples of high-tech toys that pose risks to children?
• What are the dangers associated with high-tech toys?