Hell No, Barbie

by William Skink

We live in a security state, that’s not debatable. We know we are being spied on. As Greenwald pointed out yesterday on Democracy Now, no restrictions have actually been put into effect after the disclosures made by Edward Snowden. The NSA and dozen or so other intelligence tentacles keep scooping up data about us.

Now, coming just in time for Christmas, “Hello Barbie” has taken the potential for spying to a whole new level. Check this out:

In an attempt to revitalize its Barbie brand, Mattel will soon launch Hello Barbie, a Wi-Fi-connected doll with artificial intelligence. The doll “talks” to children by recording what they say and responding accordingly. All of the children’s interactions with the doll are recorded using a microphone and are sent to a remote server through Wi-Fi. The recorded voices are then interpreted by an algorithm in order to generate an appropriate response. While some might find this innovation fun and interesting, others see in this toy a big-brotherish nightmare: It is programmed to ask personal questions to little girls, record their answers (and everything else the mic picks up) and then transmits the information to a remote location.

Even the promotional video found on the Hello Barbie website (which is meant to sell the doll) cannot help but going into creepy territory as it enumerates the numerous steps required to activate the doll : Downloading an app on a smartphone, creating an account using an e-mail address, connecting the doll to the home’s Wi-Fi network, etc. In short, well-meaning parents are actually taken through the steps required to turn this toy into a highly effective spy device that can pinpoint, with exact accuracy, who said what, at what time and where to then store all of that information on remote databases.

I found out recently our kid on the way is a girl. When I think about any of my kids playing with a toy like this, I think hell no, Barbie.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to Hell No, Barbie

  1. Congratulations Skink! As the father of four girls and a son, I can tell you that your life will be interesting. My son, the youngest, having four older sisters, developed a sharp wit and wonderful sense of humor. It is how he survived.

    Regarding spying on Americans, honestly, you really think it is necessary? What threat does this clueless population present to anyone in power? More likely they take the East German STASI approach – not to actually spy on us so much as convince us we are being spied on. That works as well. I think that is Snowden’s role – to convince us they are spying on us.

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