Germany bans smartwatches marketed at children
Smartwatches were once a “must-have” accessory in the tech world. However, the market for wearables has declined over the past year, and it’s about to get smaller; the German Federal Network Agency has banned the sale of children’s smartwatch devices within the country.
Smartwatches aimed at children aren’t a new thing. Several different companies have sold wearable tech for kids with rudimentary features, like simple telephone calling and GPS tracking, which are usually controlled via an app downloaded on a parent’s phone. However, the security risks that these features can pose recently came to light. Back in October, the Norwegian Consumer Council discovered that some kids’ smartwatches don’t encrypt the data they store or send to the parent’s phone, which opens up several security risks for the child wearing a device.
The lack of encryption makes it relatively simple to hack into one of the afflicted smartwatches, which could allow nefarious parties to either track a child or spoof their GPS transmitter. In other words, predators with a penchant for hacking could locate a child wearing a smartwatch and then imitate the device in order to send the parent a false location. Other features pose a privacy risk as well. Some children’s wearables use a microphone to allow the parent to hear their child’s environment. Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency of Germany, said that watches with this feature should be “regarded as an unauthorized transmitting system,” citing that some parents use their kids’ watches to listen in on teachers in a classroom, all without the knowledge of the teacher.
Because of these reasons, the FNA has instituted a full ban on children’s smartwatches and has urged parents who own one to discard it immediately.