Germany tells parents to destroy children’s smartwatches and show proof

By @chelean on
Google employees show off the two different colors of the Moto smartwatch at the Google I/O developers conference on June 25, 2014.
Google employees show off the two different colors of the Moto smartwatch at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco June 25, 2014. Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage

Germany has not only banned smartwatches for kids, it has also asked parents to destroy the devices and send the evidence. Bundesnetzagentur, the country’s telecommunication agency, classified them as “prohibited listening devices” that have eavesdropping functions.

The watches, aimed for children between five and 12 years old, have SIM cards and limited telephony function that are set up and controlled using an app. According to the national regulator, the watches can allow app users to remotely tap into the devices’ microphone and spy from remote locations. App users can also make the watches call a number unnoticed by the wearer or those nearby.

The agency was not concerned by parents spying on children, as it appears it’s the aim of the smartwatches to allow the parents to monitor their kids’ activities. What it was concerned about is parents spying on the children’s teachers.

“Parents can use these children’s watches to listen in to the children’s surroundings without detection via an app,” Jochen Homann, the agency president, said. “The watches are regarded as unauthorised transmitting equipment. Our investigations found, for example, that parents were using them to eavesdrop on teachers in lessons.”

The listening function of the smartwatches is prohibited in the country. The agency said parents should not only destroy their kids’ smartwatches, but also to keep proof of them destroying them.

“The Bundesnetzagentur advises schools, in particular, to be even more aware of pupils owning watches with a listening function. If the Bundesnetzagentur has knowledge of the buyers of such devices, it tells them to destroy the watches and send evidence of this to the authority. It is recommended for parents to take responsibility for destroying the devices themselves and to keep proof of this,” the statement reads.

The ban, which was announced Monday, is unrelated to the public service announcement by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) last month. The BEUC said (via the Bleeping Computer) that the GPS-tracking smartwatches could easily be hacked by other people, which meant they could also hack the children’s location.