Barbie: From Sexualizing Children to Spy*


While people at Mattel assure that the information collected will only be used to “improve the product”, it is obvious that Hello Barbie could be easily intercepted by all kinds of agencies such as the NSA.

Hwaairfan's Blog

Barbie: From Sexualizing Children to Spy*

Hello Barbie is “the world’s first interactive Barbie doll” … and it is rather creepy. Equipped with a microphone and internet connectivity, the doll asks questions to children, records their answers and send the information back to Mattel servers where it is filed and processed by a powerful algorithm.

Hello Barbie works by recording a child’s voice with an embedded microphone that is triggered by pressing a button on the doll. As the doll “listens,” audio recordings travel over the Web to a server where the snippets of speech are recognized and processed. That information is used to help form Hello Barbie’s responses.

– Washington Post, Privacy advocates try to keep ‘creepy,’ ‘eavesdropping’ Hello Barbie from hitting shelves

At the New York toy fair, Mattel representatives demonstrated Hello Barbie’s capabilities.

At the demonstration at the New York toy fair, the Mattel representative chatting with Hello Barbie mentioned…

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11 thoughts on “Barbie: From Sexualizing Children to Spy*

  1. Unbelievable! And sadly, most parents will never stop to question if this toy is dangerous for their child! More intrusion and manipulation, and maybe mind control as well, or at least the possibility.

    Creepy isn’t the word. Insane is the word I prefer!


    • All we can hope for, sojourner, is for this toy to be priced way outside the range the majority of parents can afford. While extremely painful for many of us, I guess the recession does have its blessing in a way.


  2. I wonder whether child development psychologists might not be involved at a rather generous level of compensation in this project, to help tailor Barbie’s responses just ‘so,’ to ‘mesmerize’ the infant’s mind, for the good of the child, of course. (They do, and these people fall into the category of ‘consultants.’ And this is in no way, shape, or form an attempt by me to denigrate the profession. But like all professions, people just being people, there are abuses, and this might just be one of those instances.)

    On the other hand, who among us has managed to escape his or her own childhood indoctrination into a carefully crafted mental environment, one designed — to echo a few lines from Pink Floyd (and you have to voice this bit in your head in the premonitory style of what is being echoed) — ‘to make us laugh, make us cry, make us lie down and die.’ (for reference, so you can hum the words to yourself in the appropriately foreboding manner and in the right key: — otherwise my ‘echo’ will fall short of its intended effect.)

    Yes, simply beyond ‘creepy.’

    All of it, actually. Including the part where we believe as parents that ‘education’ is an unmitigated good for our children. I think that the likes of John Taylor Gatto get it partly right when they suggest that ‘schooling’ is more about dumbing down than raising up — at least in its actual effects, in the current style and content of its delivery, if not intentionally, but then most probably intentionally.

    Not that I’m in favor of ‘private’ schools, but rather in favor of changing the manner in which public education is delivered and, above all, its content: less regimentation in favor of helping children and adolescents and young adults to develop a more questioning attitude toward everything around them, especially in political terms (they really ought to know by the time the get out of high school who their ‘real’ class enemies are and what their true life prospects will be), and a sense of having it in them to collaborate with others in finding both answers (and means) to “their” questions.

    But I digress, don’t I (though I will plead, in a not entirely irrelevant direction)?

    And yet Barbie is all about early childhood ‘education,’ isn’t she? (That’s rhetorical. You will not be helping me if you try to answer that for me. Honest. You’ll only be hurting your own cause.)

    But yeah, way beyond ‘creepy.’


    • I know for sure that child psychologists assist toy makers and marketers in making their products irresistible to children. The film “Consuming Kids: the Commercialization of Childhood” details a number of methods they use, Including eavesdropping on their slumber parties via interactive Internet sites:

      My mother, for all her flaws, was always extremely skeptical of public schools. She repeatedly cautioned me not to take the stuff teachers said seriously because I was smarter than I was. She also threatened to slap me across the face the first (and only) time I asked her to buy something I saw advertised on TV.

      The biggest problem I had with school was the way teachers colluded with well-to-do kids to marginalize and bully the poor kids who didn’t have nice clothes. I guess this is where I got my first education into class society though I didn’t realize it at the time.

      After studying the situation in India and Pakistan, where education is basically private and only rich families can afford to send their kids, I, too, am a strong supporter of publicly financed education. It’s only through education and health promotion that we add real wealth the society. Everything else is just shifting money around (mainly from poor people to reach people).

      Where local schools are truly under the control of local parents (without state or federal interference), I have seen parents collaborate effectively with teachers to keep public schools from being captured by corporate interests.


  3. My 7 year old is addicted to her 12 odd barbies and barbie on u-tube but all is not lost as i watch her build a two story barbie house out of cardboard and other cutouts. i’m amazed at her imagination


    • My daughter and her friends were all Barbie renegades. They loved to buy Barbies at garage and yard sales and cut their heads off. This was not something I instigated, but I admit to encouraging it.


  4. Here is something I do not enjoy considering, yet your Barbie doll spy tickles my creepy-meter.

    I have wondered if there is some validity into the speculation that there is a global data harvesting of all human behaviour to a central A.I. computer that is tasked with manipulating society.
    The sheer evidence of the massive scale of data collection and indiscriminate mass surveillance (so much data that no team and teams of humans could ever investigate and analyze it) leads the researcher to consider the possibility of an A.I gathering massive data to predict and manipulate future society.
    Imagine a scripted future, and a world controlled by a institutional A.I. program…


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