Germany’s telecommunications agency, the Bundesnetzagentur, issued a new order against the ownership of certain smartwatches targeted to children, citing violations surrounding built-in eavesdropping functions, and is taking the issue a step further than just a sales ban — parents are required to seize and destroy their child’s watch.
The ban only targets specific styles of watches, ones that allow parents to use the device as a one-way communication device, or as the Bundesnetzagentur refers to it as an eavesdropping feature, and does not apply to more popular devices like the Apple Watch.
“Parents can use these children’s watches to listen in to the child’s surroundings without detection via an app. The watches are regarded as unauthorised transmitting equipment,” said Bundesnetzagentur President Jochen Homann. “Our investigations found, for example, that parents were using them to eavesdrop on teachers in lessons.”
German law already prohibits the use of any eavesdropping devices, and not just items marketed towards children, so how devices that advertised such features got approved for sale in the country is unknown. But for those that did manage to get their hands on one, the government isn’t going to just assume that parents are complying with the order to destroy the devices.
Parents who purchased one of the watches must take the device to a waste management center to be destroyed or provide solid photographic proof that the watch has been destroyed beyond repair. Failure to do so could result in a fine up to €25,000 ($29,500). The Bundesnetzagentur is also urging teachers to be on the lookout for any students wearing the devices to ensure parents comply.