Like most little girls, I played with many a Barbie doll as a kid. I must have had thousands of them, movie character Barbies, blonde Barbies, brunette Barbies, and of course a few Ken dolls too. I am going to put aside the usual controversy surrounding Barbie, the unrealistic proportions, the ridiculous beauty standard (yes I know, the humanity!) and I am going to just jump right on to Mattel’s latest creation: Hello Barbie.
Touted as the “world’s first fully interactive Barbie doll”, this newest Barbie steps right over an imaginary line in the sand and makes my inner foil hat wearer VERY paranoid. Hello Barbie has Wifi, and little girls will be able to talk to their Barbie dolls and have her answer back. Cool right? How about this? Hello Barbie is connected to a database, and conversations held between Barbie and the children whose parents purchase her will be stored and “analyzed”.
The doll apparently can carry on a two sided conversation using Wifi and voice recognition technology. She (the doll) can remember responses and “get to know” the child playing with her over time. The doll is not yet available but Mattel has plans to have her on store shelves by the holiday season. I am going to be blunt here. This freaks me right the f*ck out. A doll that stores a kid’s responses on a cloud! How does this seem like a good idea?
With all of the issues surrounding privacy these days, are there actually parents out there who will want to buy a toy that records and stores conversations with their kids? Anything stored in the cloud can become available to the right person who knows how to get to it. I foresee these recorded conversations being hacked and who knows what weirdos out there will be listening to conversations that little girls think is just between them and their doll.
That is the question, really. Who will be listening? What are they listening for? This is just about the creepiest thing I have heard of since I read about the XBox One taking pictures of users, or of Samsung TV’s recording conversations. This is, to put it simply, not OK. With all the paranoia floating around about privacy issues, why would Mattel even think this is a good idea?
I just hope parents have more sense than to purchase a toy that admittedly records conversations with kids. When and if this doll gets released to store shelves, don’t buy it!
Here are just a few articles about Hello Barbie I found with a simple Google search. Read up on it, if you have kids that like Barbie dolls or know people who do, pass it on. This is not a good thing.
PC Magazine: Mattel Shows Off Internet Connected ‘Hello Barbie’
New York Times: A Wi-Fi Barbie Doll with the Soul of Siri