Germany bans kids' smartwatches over privacy concerns

Germany is usually stricter than most on marking the boundaries between tech innovation and personal privacy - it gave its citizens the right to opt out of Street View - and now its telecomms regulator, the Federal Network Agency, has clamped down on the sale of smartwatches for kids.

These chunky, colorful devices have grown in popularity as ways for parents to keep track of their offspring as they roam around, but according to the German authorities they're also a privacy risk, and don't meet the necessary safety guidelines. One of the main issues seems to be authorized audio transmission.

"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, the BBC reports. "According to our research, parents' watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom."

Changing the game

Not only are these smartwatches now banned from being sold in Germany, the Federal Network Agency is telling parents to destroy devices they've already bought. One expert speaking to the BBC said it could be a "game-changer" for the way Internet of Things and smart devices are regulated.

Outside of Germany, questions have also been raised about the encryption and other security measures applied to these kids' devices - making it easy for hackers to listen in to them or take control - though it isn't clear whether this affected this decision.

For now, parents in Germany are going to have to find another way to keep tabs on their little ones - and manufacturers are going to have to up their game when it comes to making these toy-like devices safe and secure to use.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.