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Smart watch or illegal surveillance device? - Smartwatch, montre connectée

Smart watch or illegal surveillance device?

German regulators have banned a category of smart watches for children because of their illegal surveillance capabilities. This kind of smart watch comes with its own SIM card and enables parents to monitor what is going on around their child and transmit this back to an external app.

Is your smart watch spying on you?

Thanks to this ability to privately record and broadcast a conversation – especially those taking place in a classroom – means these devices are considered unauthorized transmitting equipment.

“Our investigations found, for example, that parents were using them to eavesdrop on teachers in lessons,” stated Jochen Homann, president of the German Telecommunication Agency (Bundesnetzagentur).

This type of monitoring is highly verboten in Germany. The Agency even advises parents to destroy the devices – and to keep evidence that they have destroyed the offending devices. Failure to do this could result in a fine of up to 25,000 Euro.

The watches are aimed at the parents of children between five and 12 wanting to monitor their child’s environment. The telephony functions in the watches are set up and controlled using an app. The app user is able to make the smartwatch secretly call a desired number to where it can then broadcast the wearer’s conversations and surroundings.

The security of smart watches is at stake

The Agency ban comes after a scathing report from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) on an array of security and privacy issues with on these smart watches. The BEUC report on four popular devices found unclear and/or illegal user terms, and lack of compliance with data protection legislation, and security features that failed to function as advertised. They concluded, “the vast variety of products being imported and sold under different names also makes it exceedingly difficult to understand who is responsible for any problems with the devices or apps.”

The BEUC assessment is an accurate critique of many smart devices now on the market — whether used for children or adults. The Agency has warned teachers to be on the lookout for such smart watches being used or worn by children.

With today’s Black Friday and bargain-wise sales, cheap smart watches are within reach. But if you’re going to buy your children a smart watch, just don’t buy one with an audio recording feature. 😉

This post is also available in: GermanFrenchItalian

As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he's known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.