Markey, Barton Press Mattel on Baby Monitor Privacy

Want to know what it collects and shares, how, and how parents can control

The co-founders of the Congressional Privacy Caucus are concerned about a new Mattel baby monitor's ability to record and transmit sensitive information, as are a bunch of privacy 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) wrote the toy company Friday (Sept. 29) about its new, voice-controlled, Aristotle monitor.

Related: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Seeks End to Mattel's Aristotle

The senators described the device as a WiFi-enabled talking device with audio and video monitoring that could be in a child's room from birth through adolescence.

Markey and Barton want to know how the device will monitor children -- via photos, videos, voice recognition -- how the information will be stored and protected, how parents' permission will be obtained, and whether the device is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which Markey co-authored.

“In today's connected world, it is crucial we keep an eye on privacy and data security,” said Barton. “That is the exact reason Sen. Markey and I founded the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus over a decade ago. Our goal in the letter to Mattel is not to stifle innovation and product development, but to ensure that parents know how their child's data will be protected.”

Related: Markey, Barton Revive 'Do Not Track Kids' Bill

Separately, privacy advocates including Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, plan to send Mattel a petition with some 15,000 signatures asking the company to pull the plug on Aristotle, which they characterize as an Alexa for kids.

"I think that the 'early warning' sounded by the bipartisan Congress members is very important," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, "as these products are being funded by VCs and others who see the digital kids market as highly lucrative."