Smart electronic devices may turn into spy tools

Electronic devices or toys equipped with a camera and microphone may invade the privacy of the user once they are connected to the Internet, whether it is remote-controlled toy cars, smart watches or cleaning robots, so the user should read the product descriptions and data protection rules carefully before purchasing these devices and tools, according to the Federal Network Agency in Germany.

The device may operate illegally if it records conversations or images and transmits them wirelessly without the user’s consent or inability to control this data, or if the recording operations are performed without the user’s noticing, or if the device can be accessed remotely through applications in order to listen or observe what is going on in the room, these cases are examples of illegal spying cases. Here are some examples of prohibited devices:

Smart watches

Smart watches with listening functions may be advertised online, the user should be suspicious if functions such as voice monitoring, baby monitors or one-way conversation are advertised, since in such cases the microphone and camera are activated remotely by an application or command via SMS without the knowledge of the smart -watch user or any other party in the surrounding area.

Cleaning robots

Cleaning robots equipped with a camera and/or microphone could turn into illegal spying devices if they could transmit audio and images from home to their owners wirelessly. The critical factor here is the presence of audio or visual cues that make the recording process known to third parties, and the Federal Network Agency is currently checking several cleaning bots to ensure that these requirements are met.


The category of prohibited devices could also include dolls, robots and cars, which are controlled remotely by apps and equipped with cameras or microphones, and the Federal Networking Agency has warned against games that connect to the Internet.

Daily life products

The German agency referred to some products and devices that are used in daily life, and that transmit images or sound without the user noticing, and this category includes devices that distribute air fresheners.


The Federal Network Agency added that GPS or GSM tracking devices for locating cars, bikes, and animals or monitoring for other purposes may also be prohibited by law. The size of these devices does not exceed the size of matchboxes, and to prevent spying operations, the trackers are blocked if they can be activated without the user noticing via an application or commands, which are sent by small text messages.

Source: (DPA)

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