Kids' Smartwatches Banned In Germany Over Spying Concerns

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Some smartwatches designed for children were officially banned in Germany earlier this week, following a decision of the Federal Network Agency based on concerns over their potential to be used as illegal spying tools. The regulator called for parents who previously purchased such devices to destroy them, in addition to revealing that it already took legal action against certain online retailers selling that specific category of wearables. Only smartwatches with microphones capable of being remotely enabled were banned as part of the decision, whereas many others are still allowed to be sold in the Central European country.

The Federal Network Agency officially labeled children-oriented smartwatches capable of location tracking and remote listening as "unauthorized transmitting systems," consequently deeming them illegal. While a wide variety of consumer electronics vendors and manufacturers affected by the decision are able to legally challenge the ruling, it's still unclear whether there are presently any immediate plans to do so. Wearables targeted at children aren't automatically banned if they boast GPS capabilities, industry watchers say, but the wording of the regulator's ruling does leave enough room for interpretation and could theoretically be used by the agency as a prelude to a more comprehensive ban of Internet-enabled watches and bands, though German authorities gave no indication of such plans being in the works. The clause about such wearables not having microphones that can be activated remotely also isn't defined in many details; even if manufacturers don't develop a way for consumers to do so, poorly secured gadgets could still lead to privacy violations and spying incidents that the new ruling is trying to prevent while remaining entirely legal, some industry watchers suggest.

Hacking risks remain one of the largest causes for concern pertaining to Internet of Things products, with this emerging electronics segment still lacking global security standards comparable to those attached to contemporary smartphones, tablets, and various computers. The recent rise of botnets and similar "zombie" networks of hacked devices is understood to have been largely prompted by the growing popularity of poorly secured IoT offerings, though no concrete solutions to the growing issue have yet been implemented on an industry-wide level.

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