Cayla, the talking doll
16 January 2017-
Cayla is a doll that gives answers to questions that children ask her. The question of the child is sent to a company via an app on your smartphone, where the question is converted to a query and a reply. Cayla then reads that answer aloud. Cayla can therefore listen very well. Perhaps too good. For now, the sale of Cayla has been stopped after research has shown that it can be used to monitor the childs converstaions remotely via a mobile phone. The buyers of the doll appeared naive.
When I read this, I thought back to communication lesson long ago. In communication between two people there is always a sender and a receiver. The sender says something and then the receiver needs to hear, listen, understand and respond. In the case of Cayla there is something additional. What the child says, is transmitted to an unknown computer that records the text, analyzes it and generates a response. What this exactly does to the communication between child and doll remains unclear.
The same story with free apps on our smartphones. If we download an app, we must always accept the terms. If not, the installation on the smartphone will stop. Nobody takes the effort to read these terms first: that takes too much time. And so we accept them without really knowing the risks. Actually, this is the same naivety as with the doll. It is time that we realize that technology is becoming increasingly complex. Including The technology in a healthcare facility. And that this can have all kinds of side effects such as data leakage and privacy breache. Do not let your expensive medical device become a Cayla doll!
Published in the Zorg en Ziekenhuiskrant, editie januari 2017