The doll is wi-fi connected and connects to a server, so it not only chats with your child but also remembers things, regurgitating details in later conversations—like pets’ names, favorite activities, and other topics your kid has brought up. It’s like Siri, with a memory and a plastic body … and a gigantic toy company listening in. The nice people at Mattel are promising that they won’t use anything your children say to help them with marketing or product development. Do you feel reassured yet?
Mattel is also proposing that they might also make it possible for parents to access those recordings, so not only can the toy company eavesdrop on your kids, so can you!
People are freaking out about this, but mostly because of the privacy concerns. It’s a funny complaint in a world that’s already tight in social media’s grip. Does privacy even exist anymore? I’m not sure it does. Kids already have their photos, quotes, and accomplishments scattered across their parents’ Facebook and Instagram accounts, which are as accessible to the general public as they are to Mattel. So maybe what would ease parents’ minds is giving this chatty Barbie a career appropriate to her new talents. It’s all in the branding. We already have News Anchor Barbie, Dentist Barbie, Fashion Designer Barbie, and Paleontologist Barbie, so why not call this one Tattletale Barbie, or Snitch Barbie? Secret Agent Superspy Barbie works too.