My Friend Cayla is a scary doll—not an actual friend of mine named Cayla—who reminds me of the orphan from the movie Orphan starring Vera Farmiga for two reasons: 1) because they both wear chokers, and 2) because you should never trust them. Not only are Cayla and Esther (who’s actually a murderous 33-year-old lunatic from Estonia named Leena) both incapable of providing convincingly child-like responses to questions, they both love spying on the conversations of their new parents. That’s right, folks. Cayla’s a fucking snitch.
NPR reports Tuesday that “everything a child tells the doll can be recorded, in the guise of having an interactive conversation.” Claire Gartland, director of the Consumer Privacy Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said she is “very concerned about the fact that these dolls are essentially spying on your kids’ private conversations,” adding that “anything that’s said to Cayla...can be sent to the toy’s makers” if it’s paired to an internet-connected device.
Gartland says the conversations that Cayla records are sent to servers at a company called Genesis, which makes the doll, and to another company called Nuance, which makes voice-recognition software for this any many other products. Nuance also has a database used by law enforcement and military and intelligence agencies that matches voiceprints.
This, Gartland claims, may be a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which “requires companies that collect and use private information from children age 12 and younger to notify their parents and get permission first.” They’ve filed a complaint with the FTC, and hope Cayla is eventually “taken off the shelves in the United States.”
If I had kids, I’d ban My Friend Cayla from our home. In fact, I’d probably go a step further and ban their friends named Cayla from our home! I don’t need another thing to be anxious about. “I’m so sorry Mr. Nesbit, but Cayla can’t come over today or ever because I saw Orphan, the commercial for My Friend Cayla, and the first season of Westworld and have lost my ability to put my trust in anything. No hard feelings, I just think your daughter might be a weapon of the state. P.S. I’m bringing snickerdoodles to the bake sale. I made six dozen!”