This is a story about The Internet Of Things and how dystopia is real, and we already live in it. Yesterday, Motherboard reported that Spiral Toys, the toy company that sells CloudPets, has been caught in a massive data breach over the last year.
CloudPets have been recording at least 800,000 parents’ conversations with their kids through CloudPets teddy bears, storing the personal conversations in a cloud, and leaving them floating around in the Internet for hackers to find. Hackers did, in fact, invite themselves in the conversations of 800,000 families and CloudPets and Spiral Toys are to blame.
To be clear, this data breach is a cyberattack against families and their privacy. Whereas parents used to build high fences around their yards to guard against neighbours’ prying eyes, they now need to keep corporate interests out of their kids’ bedrooms by navigating toy stores with diligence.
Perhaps the parents were just saying, “Goodnight, Sammy, we love you — sleep tight”, and not, “Welcome to our house, Snake, we keep the piles of cocaine we traffic under Sammy’s mattress”, but it’s not the message that matters. It’s that privacy is not a commodity to be sold.
Brands do not get to help themselves to private conversations.
The problem with The Internet Of Things and is how it facilitates the collection of data from regular old household items like teddy bears, which most innocent people don’t expect — they’re used to building high fences, not protecting against a data breach through teddy bears in their kids’ bedrooms.
Brands like Spiral Toys want to collect data because they can use it to get to know their market intimately, and use it to sell them even more products. Data is most valuable when it’s unique and proprietary and Spiral Toys went so far to record what’s possible the most private and personal of relationships: The relationship between a mother or father and child.