EU Recalls Child Smartwatch Over ‘Serious’ Privacy RisksSkill Level 7, Published on: Feb 07, 2019
The European Commission has ordered a recall of a smartwatch for children because of what is calls a “serious” privacy risk. The watch, called Safe-KID-One, is a product of the German electronics manufacturer Enox.
On its website, Enox describes the Safe-KID-One as a tool for parents. The watches have a simple, colorful design that seems appealing to children. The device has a built-in microphone and speaker to permit two-way communication.
The company says the smartwatch can be used by parents to learn where their children are at all times and contact them. It says this can be done with a computer software program, or app.
However, the European Commission (EC) recently reported that it found major security concerns with the Safe-KID-One system. Commission members investigated the device after concerns were reported by officials in Iceland. The EC wrote that the risk level of the smartwatches was “serious” and called for an immediate recall of the devices.
The warning said the app linked to the Safe-KID-One device can permit non-secure communications with the system’s computer server. The server’s security issues make it possible for people to break into the system and steal private information, the EC said.
As a result, “data such as location history, phone numbers and serial number can be easily retrieved and changed,” it warned.
“A malicious user can send commands to any watch - making it call another number of his choosing - can communicate with the child wearing the device, or locate the child through GPS,” the warning said.
The founder of Enox, Ole Anton Bieltvedt, spoke to the British Broadcasting Corporation about the EC’s decision. He said the device had met all German government rules last year before being offered to the public. He added that the version of the smartwatch tested by the EC was no longer being sold.
It is not the first time privacy and security concerns have been raised about smartwatches for children.
In 2017, German officials banned some kinds of smartwatches. The government said the watches let parents secretly listen in to children and their environment. At the time, no specific smartwatches were named.
Officials said the devices had microphones that let parents listen in on teachers and school activities. The government said the system violated German laws aimed at restricting surveillance.
Also in 2017, a Norwegian Consumer Council report warned of the dangers of smartwatches for children. The group said it had uncovered serious security and privacy issues after examining and testing several smartwatch models being sold across Europe.
Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.
recall /rɪˈkɔːl/ – n. an order to return something found to have problems
- All 5,128 of its UK Corsas were being recalled because of an electrical fault.
location /lə(ʊ)ˈkeɪʃ(ə)n/ – n. a place or position
- The property is set in a convenient location.
retrieve /rɪˈtriːv/ – v. get something
- Steven stooped and retrieved his hat.
malicious /məˈlɪʃəs/ – adj. intended to cause harm
- Two people are facing possible prosecutions for malicious or criminal damage.
GPS /ˌdʒiːˈpiːˈɛs/ – n. abbreviation for Global Positioning System: a system of computers and satellites used to identify where users are
- The car has GPS tracking.
surveillance /səˈveɪəns/ – n. the careful watching of something or someone, especially by police or the government
- The police had the suspects under surveillance for weeks before the robbery.
Answer these questions about the article.
1. Why did the EC order a recall of smartwatches for children?
2. How does Enox describe the watches?
3. Why are the smartwatches unsafe, according to the EC?
4. Is this the first time smartwatches have had security issues?
Make a sentence.
Make sentences using these words.
recall, location, retrieve, malicious, GPS, surveillance
Have a discussion on following questions.
1. What do you think about the EC decission to recall smartwatches for children?
2. Have you ever used a smartwatch?
3. Are you worried about your online security?
4. What are the pros and cons of smartwatches for children?