Smartwatches for children have been described as being spying devices by a German regulator which has also banned the sale of such devices aimed at children.
Similar reasons had been behind the same regulator earlier banning an internet-connected doll called, My Friend Cayla.
Parents of children with such smartwatches were urged to destroy the devices by the telecoms regulator the Federal Network Agency.
For the internet connected devices, this decision could be a “game-changer”, said one expert.
“Poorly secured smart devices often allow for privacy invasion. That is really concerning when it comes to kids’ GPS tracking watches – the very watches that are supposed to help keep them safe,” said Ken Munro, a security expert at Pen Test Partners.
“There is a shocking lack of regulation of the ‘internet of things’, which allows lax manufacturers to sell us dangerously insecure smart products.
“Using privacy regulation to ban such devices is a game-changer, stopping these manufacturers playing fast and loose with our kids’ security,” he added.
Several firms offering such devices for sale had already been identified and action taken against them the agency said in a statement.
“Via an app, parents can use such children’s watches to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment and they are to be regarded as an unauthorised transmitting system,” said Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency.
“According to our research, parents’ watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom.”
Urge to paying more attention to children using such watches by schools was given by the agency.
Children between the ages of five and 12 are typically the target for a large number of companies that offer such watches in Germany.
Set and controlled through an app, most of such watches contain a Sim card and a limited telephony function.
“Some children’s watches – including Gator and GPS for kids – had flaws such as transmitting and storing data without encryption”, the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) had reported in October.
A child could be made to appear in a completely different location through hacking and hackers can use very basic hacking techniques to track the children using such watches, as they moved. Even stranger could do this and this posed a threat for the children.
Whether the wider security flaws that have been uncovered by NCC and others or the basic issues of privacy issues associated with the watches formed the basis of the German decision is not yet clear.
The security issues had been resolved, both the firms in question said.
Finn Myrstad, head of digital policy at the NCC said: “This ban sends a strong signal to makers of products aimed at children that they need to be safer.”
In order to enhance the security of such devices, a Europe wide measure was called for by him
(Adapted from BBC)