Smartwatches with internet-enabled GPS tracking devices can put children at risk due to security flaws, unreliable emergency features, and poor privacy protections. These devices can be easily hacked, enabling strangers with basic technical knowledge to access sensitive information about kids and even contact them directly, endangering the safety of child wearers. Manufacturers and distributors can be held liable when children suffer physical or psychological injuries due to unsafe smartwatches.
Dangers of Kids’ Smartwatches
The majority of smartwatches made specifically for kids pose numerous security flaws. Investigations report that these watches provide no protection for stored data. Four brands, Gator 2, Tinitell, Viksfjord, and Xplora, were found to be extremely vulnerable to hackers and people with some technical knowledge. The lack of encryption in kids’ smartwatches makes it easy for hackers to obtain access to information about a child, including the child’s name, phone number, real-time location, and even live audio from the watch’s microphone. Safety-enhancing features that alert parents when a child is in trouble or track a child’s location are unreliable.
Smartwatches contain location trackers, cameras, and microphones, and they are paired with certain apps for proper control. In kids’ smartwatches, companion apps are usually on a parent’s phone. When tested, two out of three of these apps were found to have vital security flaws allowing hackers remote access without the parent’s knowledge. These security flaws allow attackers to contact a child directly through the smartwatch, track their locations through GPS, and watch their activities through the phone’s camera.
When researchers looked at numerous kids’ smartwatches, they found many privacy concerns that could lead to personal harm. The majority of watches did not ask for proper consent to collect data. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule requires any entity knowingly collecting data online from children under 13 years old to keep kids’ data secure and confidential and permit parents access to review or delete their kids’ data.
Although initial investigations on kids’ smartwatches began with European brands, many of these watches are sold in America. Many kids’ smartwatches violate protection and privacy laws established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect consumers from harm. When a company sells kid-targeted smartwatches, it must ensure that the product is safe and secure for use. The FTC has expressed major safety concerns and possible investigations into the security dangers of kids’ smartwatches.