back to article Germany slaps ban on kids' smartwatches for being 'secret spyware'

The German telecoms regulator has banned the sale of children's smartwatches that allow users to secretly listen in on nearby conversations. The move is the latest in a string of actions taken by the Federal Network Agency, or Bundesnetzagentur, against devices that allow people to snoop on each other. The agency said the …

Good !!!

That is all that needs to be said.

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Good news, bad reporting

El reg, shame on ya - you are a day late after the Graunidad.

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Re: Good news, bad reporting

We had this conversation end of last week I believe. This is tabloid news not tech news. Vulture is first with tech news and recycles techy tabloid news for me because I don't read tabloids (though I still read the Grauniad despite its descent towards being a tabloid).

Though I missed this in the Guardian - busy weekend.

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Re: Good news, bad reporting

What is annoying is that they seem to have just copy and pasted the German statement into Google Translate and think that the results are readable. They are not, even simple sentence construction errors weren't corrected before posting, let alone where GT uses the wrong words.

There is a good reason why translation agencies haven't died out, Google Translate & Co. are not really usable for such tasks.

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Trollface

Re: big_D

GT? I miss the tech reviews in Gay Times...

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Re: Good news, bad reporting

Google Translate isn't just "not really usable" it's completely wrong on a regular basis. Especially when translating German to English.

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Re: Good news, bad reporting

Yes. I hear American podcasts all the time that praise Google Translate, but they are usually doing American - Central-American Spanish translations. English - German is worryingly inaccurate.

At least you can train it. I once had some translations to do (English safety manual into German) and tried to short-cut the process due to time constraints and bunged a few paragraphs in Google Translate. Sentences written in formal English seemed to really mess up the translations, using slang or abbreviations were better, but the document was written in formal English.

Sentences like:

"Do not open the case, high voltage inside" translated into "Das Gehäuse öffnen, Starkstrom drinnen" (Open the casing, high voltage inside).

"Do not open the case, no user serviceable parts inside" translated into "Das Gehäuse öffnen, nichts drinnen" (Open the case, nothing inside).

After laughing so hard I fell from my stool, I put the correct translations into Google Translate's corrections box and translated the document by hand.

Interestingly, "don't open the case,..." translated correctly into "Das Gehäuse nicht öffnen,..."

At least the corrections seem to have taken effect, the translation were better, last time I tried them.

I did work for a translation office for a while, which showed me that, although my translations were technically accurate and readable, they were still a long way from what a trained translator with doctorates in source and destination languages can generate.

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Re: Good news, bad reporting

"German is worryingly inaccurate.

At least you can train it."

So, in effect, the people who don't need Google translate are the only ones likely to spot that it's incorrect and "fix" it using their own time, while the people who actually need to use it are likely to not have a clue that it can be so badly wrong.

Anonymous Coward

It's a wise move to only allow regular watches on your hans.

A regular wristwatch

like Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin owned as a first-grader, a rare, expensive, and prestigious accessory for any age group in the time of postwar Soviet poverty in St. Petersburg.

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Coat

Now

Ban MS, Apple & Google so called "Telemetry" (Not just phones but PCs, TVs, watches, IoT).

Ban 3rd party tracking JS, images, resources and 3rd party cookies on Websites.

Ban Facebook entirely.

Mine's the one with an Android phone with WiFi off, Location off and Mobile Data off (voice only). Watching TV on my Sony with nothing in Ethernet socket and no WiFi.

Linux on my Lenovo laptop.

Anonymous Coward

Re: Now

But as uTorrent tells me (on my android device) I need to "turn on my location to improve my advertising experience".

I have resisted so far, but boy am i tempted to get that "improved advertising experience"

</sarcasm>

Anonymous Coward

Ban 'everything' - Upvoted - But:

Lenovo??? Superfish started this slippery slope into surveillance capitalism. They're unworthy of the 'plug' regardless of Linux...!

Anonymous Coward

Re: Ban 'everything' - Upvoted - But:

Almost every manufacturer ships their laptops with spyware.

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Linux

Re: Now

Limited telemetry can have it's uses and be beneficial...but not the way it is done by the big superfish

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Re: Ban 'everything' - Upvoted - But:

Lenovo??? Superfish

Um, perhaps that's why it runs Linux? You can turn off stuff and it was bought with Win7 which cost extra compared to Win10 (oddly after MS stopped shipping).

Watches

Mine's the one I wind daily, And increases in value as it ages,

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Widespread potential problem?

Can't you do the same thing with a small, cheap mobile phone?

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Re: Widespread potential problem?

That is the agencies response, they said that mobile phones are fine, because everybody knows that they are remote listening devices and they are licensed as such - plus the user has to actually accept the call.

The problem with the watches, according to the Bundesnetzagentur is that they listen without the wearer or those in the vicinity being aware that they are being recorded, which is illegal in Germany.

According to the BNA, you can take the device to the local recycling centre and they will destroy it for you and give you a certificate of compliance.

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So how long before the current US "administration" requires them?

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Alternate subhead:

"We're the government! We have a MONOPOLY on spying!"

Anonymous Coward

I applaud the idealism but I am not sure if this will prove to be practically sustainable in the long run.

Anonymous Coward

'sustainable in the long run'

Who gives a f-ck, its a win for now. This is about the only positive push-back we've seen against 'surveillance capitalism' in the past decade... Go Germany even if Munich is killing off LibreOffice... :(

Re: 'sustainable in the long run'

Go Germany even if Munich is killing off LibreOffice... :(

They switched from XP to LiMux, a house developed distro, if I recall correctly.

Now they're switching from LiMux to Win10? With Office 365 on the cloud instead of LibreOffice.?

<sarc>Oh, I get the feeling that this'll go over seamlessly with absolutely no backlash!</sarc>

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Re: 'sustainable in the long run'

There are similar stories every couple of weeks about companies, mainly US based startups or multi-nationals, abusing their power in Germany and breaking the law and being taken to task by the German DPOs. Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein being the two most prominent.

German's take their privacy very seriously and they even have released a set of notes on how businesses should configure Windows 10 Enterprise to make it acceptable as a platform for business use (turning off different levels of diagnostics' reporting by Group Policy, for example).

Drones were also a big topic earlier this year. They cannot be flown over towns, housing or public areas. You can only fly them over model aircraft airports and open fields.

Anonymous Coward

Finally IoT Regulation???

Germany bans children's smartwatches - A German regulator has banned the sale of smartwatches aimed at children, describing them as spying devices. - "There is a shocking lack of regulation of the 'internet of things', which allows lax manufacturers to sell us dangerously insecure smart products. "Using privacy regulation to ban such devices is a game-changer, stopping these manufacturers playing fast and loose with our kids' security,"

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42030109

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Re: Finally IoT Regulation???

This isn't so much a problem with IoT, as such, any type of spying device is illegal in Germany, without special licensing and can only then be used in certain circumstances by licensed persons (E.g. police or private detective agencies).

There is currently no legislation to allow helicopter parents to use such devices, therefore the order to stop selling them (although many come direct from China or other foreign sources) and to destroy the models in use.

Anonymous Coward

"which goes against Germany's strict anti-surveillance laws."

Moreover, it goes against the German parenting rule that you treat your children with the same respect and consideration you would expect them to show to you and everyone else.

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WTF?

But the reason

stated was that kid's watches were being used by parents to spy on lessons? So, inquiring minds want to know that teachers have to hide there!

All for banning spy watches. Just that it seems like the reason here was interesting in itself.

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Re: But the reason

The reason has nothing to do with teachers. That was just an example of a situation in which the use of such a device is ILLEGAL. The devices can be used to spy on the wearer and those in his or her vicinity without their knowledge, which is illegal, you are not allowed to use spy devices of any sort to spy on other people without their permission.

Even recording a telephone conversation is illegal, if you do not have the other parties permission in advance. You also have to let the person on the other end know in advance for what reasons you are making the recording (E.g. personal training purposes) and you are legally restricted to that use - you cannot, for example record a conversation for training purposes and later use it in court to show breach of contract, for example.

Re: But the reason

Indeed.

This is why you cannot even get telephones capable of recording calls: they, too, are illegal.

It's called "Informationsselbstbestimmung" / informational self-determination" over here.

Personally, I suspect it has more to do with not being obliged to incriminate yourself.

This why you cannot - to give just one example - record in any way whatsoever (film/sound/whatever) neighbours who dump their rubbish over the fence onto your property. All inadmissible in court.

Childrens' watches capable of recording what teachers should be banned but not being able to record neighbourhood squabbles goes too far: loony tunes.

Anonymous Coward

Re: But the reason

> Even recording a telephone conversation is illegal, if you do not have the other parties permission in advance. You also have to let the person on the other end know in advance for what reasons you are making the recording

Which is why when you call a customer service number, you're sometimes given the option of whether or not you allow the call to be recorded, even if it's just for training use. Which I find very decent of their Krautness.

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