Toy Story got a few things right.

OK, your childhood toys probably weren’t going on adventures and saving their friends from your sociopathic tween neighbor who liked to experiment on stuffed animals.

But some toys, just like the Vizio smart TVs I mentioned last week, can spy on you.
Jocelynn Smith mentioned the Elf on the Shelf, but there are more toys to add to that list: Other web-linked toys, such as My Friend Cayla, a doll offered by Genesis Toys, can also collect data on you.

In fact, a Bluetooth device could link to Cayla’s microphone system within a 33-foot radius, and anyone who wanted to spy on someone playing with the doll could do it through several walls. That’s why the Electronic Privacy Information Center says it poses an “imminent and immediate threat to the safety and security of children.” And why it filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission a couple of months ago.

This lines up with what I said last week: More and more often, I keep reading stories detailing the various and sundry ways consumer goods are leaving the doors open to hackers and privacy violations.

So I asked you to send me your thoughts on these increasing infringements last week. I wanted to know if you, too, were concerned about this new world that no longer seems to see the walls separating our private lives.

And you didn’t disappoint. Here’s a sampling of the notes I received:

Myra S. writes: “Thank you for shedding light on this very important issue. Sadly, most people use these devices without even considering the implications regarding their privacy and safety — all for the sake of ease and convenience.”

Terri S. writes: “As a technology professional, I’m not shocked but annoyed at how much information is known about us. The problem is: How to stop it?”

K.B writes: “I’m a baby boomer who understands what privacy is. I am afraid it is being systematically dissected from younger generations’ consciences — mainly [through] Facebook, Twitter, etc. I will not participate on Facebook. I have nothing to hide, but I value me as an individual. That is going away too.”

Steve M. writes: “The move to the corporate world that is unfolding is extremely scary as the businesses are not beholden to anyone but the stock holders … We have seen too many instances of corporate malfeasance brushed away by a settlement.”

Jacquie M. writes: “This is a critical time in history where the benefits of technology are at a crossroads with a government that is becoming more authoritarian and intrusive. I think this is a test of companies’ ethics and of humanity’s desire to progress rather than backslide.”

Thank you to everyone who wrote in. I always appreciate getting the chance to see what topics spark your interest, and it seems privacy is a big one. We’ll continue to keep you updated on the latest, including new ways to protect yourselves and your wealth in this smart-tech age.

Catch you next week.


Jessica Cohn-Kleinberg
Managing Editor, Banyan Hill Publishing