Friday, December 4, 2015

Spies in the House of Love



If you have beautiful, gorgeous children in your life you're probably looking for some toys for them about now. But are the toys looking back? Seems so.
Mattel’s talking Hello Barbie has come under scrutiny from a group of security experts, who found that the wi-fi enabled doll could be hacked. The world’s first interactive Barbie was unveiled earlier this year, allowing children to talk to the iconic doll. The audio files are processed over the internet for Barbie to respond. The doll also remembers the user’s likes and dislikes. See how Hello Barbie works above. Security expert Matt Jakubowski told NBC that he has managed to hack the Hello Barbie system to extract wi-fi network names, account IDs and MP3 files, which could be used to track down someone’s home. “You can take that information and find out a person’s house or business. It’s just a matter of time until we are able to replace their servers with ours and have her say anything we want,” he warned.
That's bad, but it gets worse. Some see this all as a descent into totalitarianism.
Philosopher and cultural theorist Michel Foucault warned of a future in which society is under constant surveillance. He used the "panopticon" -- a model prison watch system designed by 18th century political philosopher Jeremy Bentham -- as a symbol of modern societies that use surveillance as a form of disciplinary control.
That future may be here, in the form of a sprightly little elf telling children that they better not pout and they better not cry, because Santa is coming to town -- and his little helpers are always watching.
The Elf on the Shelf doll, based on the popular Elf on the Shelf children's book, has become a full-blown cultural phenomenon in recent years, and Dr. Laura Pinto, a professor of digital education at the University of Ontario Institute Of Technology, for one, is concerned.
The doll is used in the home and in schools -- perched in a different location each day -- to encourage children to be on their best behavior so that they make it onto Santa's "nice" list. As the story goes, the elf has been sent from Santa ("the boss") as a special scout to help create his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopts the elf and gives him a name, the elf takes to his watchtower in various parts of the house and monitors the children's behavior. During the Christmas season, children are told that they must play by not only their parents' or teachers' rules, but also by the elf's rules.
Sieg Heil Barbie, and happy weekend!

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