An advocacy group protested on Wednesday a so-called “eavesdropping” Barbie, which records children’s speech and sends that data over the Web.
The Doll records children’s speech with an embedded microphone and sends it over the web, which leaves kids vulnerable to stealth advertising tactics, the group said.
Chief executive Oren Jacob of ToyTalk, the San Francisco-based startup that created the technology in the doll, told the Journal that the captured audio files is “never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all.” Instead, the technology is used to improve speech recognition, Jacob said.
Children press a button to chat with Hello Barbie, which “listens” to their speech and sends the audio recording over a WiFi connection to ToyTalk’s cloud-based servers, where that speech is recognized and processed. The Barbie can then make a response.
For example, in a Mattel demonstration, “Welcome to New York, Barbie” elicited the response, “I Love New York! Don’t you?”
The doll is set to hit stores this fall.
Read next: The Barbie Doll’s Not-for-Kids Origins