Germany bans sale of child-snooping smartwatches

A German regulator has banned the sale of children's smartwatches that have one-way monitoring functions. Officials said parents had been using the watches to listen in on teachers while their children were in class.

Certain smartwatches for children can no longer be sold in Germany as some of these models are equipped with a "wiretapping" function, a regulator said on Friday

Germany's Federal Network Agency, or Bundesnetzagentur, announced the ban saying that these watches can be classed as "unauthorized transmitters."

"According to our investigations, parents were using the watches, for example, to listen in on teachers during class," said Bundesnetzagentur President Jochen Homann.

Read moreGerman regulator tells parents to destroy 'spy' doll Cayla


Build your own ball flipper

Even celebrities are getting involved in the sales pitch: comedians Bernhard Hoëcker (l) and Wigald Boning present the ball flipper game “GraviTrax” by Ravensburger at the 68th Nuremberg Toy Fair. The trade show runs until 6 February and is only open to industry professionals.


Virtual reality racer

Little Romeo is taking the "Revell Control X-treme Raver VR Racer" for a spin at the exhibition center in Nuremberg. The toy is nominated for an award in the "SchoolKids" category.


Analog and ice-cool

German families spend around 180 euros ($193) a year on toys, statisticians have worked out. That means that this boardgame, "Icecool", by the group Amigo Spiel + Freizeit is still within budget.


Back to nature

More products for our little friend Romeo to try out: this time he is giving the "Tegu Beans and Tumtum Magnetic Wooden Block Set" a whirl ... In the old days we used to simply call them wooden toys.


Playful programming

The 68th Nuremberg Toy Fair would not be complete without a digital toy or two: the "Lego Boost" by Lego teaches kids to program through play.


Colorful forms

Early recognition of colors and shapes never did children any harm: here little Andrea is playing with the "Senso' Chamaleon" by Infantino BKids.


Almost like a painting

Is this the abstract technique of tomorrow? The "Kreide-Bombe" by XTREM Toys & Sports aims to get kids creating from an early age ... and it's certainly more imaginative than a coloring book.


Sjoel de Boules

It's not just tablets and touchscreens - here a game the French love to play outdoors, has been crafted for family fun around a kitchen table. "Sjoel de Boules" is made by International Stationery.


Analog handiwork

The toy industry brought in around 3 billion euros in 2015 - numbers for 2016 are expected in March. Here is the 100% analog "Mighty Mountain Mine" by Hape International. It is also up for an award, like all the toys shown here, this time in the "PreSchool" category.

According to the regulator, there are several smartwatches on the market in Germany specifically targeted at 5 to 12-year-olds.

Authorities have advised parents to dispose of the watches and retain evidence that they had done so, as keeping devices with such monitoring functions is forbidden by law in Germany.

When a smartwatch becomes a "spy watch"

The regulator emphasized that smartwatches with integrated telephone functions are not forbidden under German law.

Devices cross the line, however, when they have a SIM card and a function that is typically described as a "baby phone function," "one-way conversation," or "voice monitoring."

In these cases, the watch's integrated microphone can be activated using an app where the parents' or another person's telephone number has been previously entered.

Read moreClassic toys in children's rooms throughout the world

Related Subjects

After activating the microphone, "all voices and sounds in the watch's surroundings can be monitored without [the wearer of the watch] making a call," Bundesnetzagentur said on its website.

"Neither the watch-wearer nor their conversation partners can notice this," they added.

Devices with these types of monitoring functions are forbidden in Germany. Last year, the regulator banned the doll "My Friend Cayla" for similar reasons, as the toy was vulnerable to hackers who can reveal data from children's conversations with the doll.


The sundial

The sundial dates back to Ancient Egypt and is one of the earliest known forms of timekeeping. It still has a strong popular following today, with many towns taking the design of the sundial as an opportunity to install artworks that integrate this intriguing predecessor of the clock. Its downside, however, is that when the sun isn't shining, there simply is no telling what time it actually is.


The hourglass

Not just a symbol for the ideal female silhouette, the hourglass measures time like a stopwatch and not so much like a clock. When all the sand is down, your time is up. The exact origins of the hourglass are unknown but the earliest mention of it is found in the early Middle Ages - and it hasn't gone out of fashion since. Even today, many people continue to adorn their homes with hourglasses.


The water clock

This modern contraption is a water clock, but a more primitive model of it could likely date back to the 16th century BC or even earlier. Similar to the hourglass, the water clock determines the passing of time by a substance - water, in this case - flowing from one chamber to the other. This German shopping mall in Berlin features a more artistic design of a water clock from 1982.


The pocket watch

The pocket watch is widely seen as the father of the wristwatch. Attached to a chain, gentlemen used to carry their pocket watches in their jacket pockets. Despite going out of style after the two World Wars, the pocket watch has been enjoying a recent revival as the must-have accessory of hipsters. Women have also taken to this rather old-fashioned piece as well lately.


The luxury watch

It would appear that when it comes to luxury products, the sky is the limit for wristwatches. Of course there are established brand names such as Rolex, Omega, Rado, Tag Heuer and many others, but for some playboys these watches are actually considered entry-level models. There are wristwatches on the market that sell for more than one million euros, making this bling a form of investment.


The Swatch revolution

Those who can't afford fancy watches can at least have lots of fun with them. The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of the Swatch brand, which gave people an opportunity to express themselves creatively with the company's colorful and unusual designs. The watchmaker also turned the idea of a wristwatch on its head, marketing the plastic product as more of a durable accessory than time-teller.


The punch clock

There are also clocks and watches we dread. No one likes the feeling of being on the clock at work, and yet the punch clock has somehow managed to meander its way into our lives and is unlikely to leave any time soon. You clock in when you arrive and clock out when you leave. While it can establish fairness in the workplace, the punchclock is also a symbol of everyday monotony.


The parking meter

This image might fill drivers with dread. The parking meter mocks us daily, charging exorbitant prices and forcing you to rush back to your car. While many now take credit cards instead of coins, old-fashioned models are still widespread. The first parking meter in the world was installed in Oklahoma City in 1935.


The atomic clock

Atomic clocks are the most precise timekeepers in the world, as they cannot fall victim to gravity. The complicated physics behind the atomic clock ensure the world agrees on what time it is, no matter what time zone you may be in. Atomic clocks used atom temperature and electronic transition frequencies - and form the basis of international navigation systems like GPS.


The smart watch

The future holds many promising developments for clocks and watches, as wearable formats continue to grow in popularity. The Apple Watch and smart watches are small computers, rather than timepieces. Will they soon make simple watches and clocks redundant? The Baselworld 2017 trade show in Switzerland presents the latest trends to wear on your wrist from March 23-30.

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