Tech Software Can Be Good or Evil

Smartwatches are still fairly early in their development, and it’s taking a while to figure out which features are good and which are not.

That’s especially true when it comes to smartwatches for children, which have been sold, particularly in Europe, as devices that can help enhance children’s safety.

Features include the ability of parents to call their children, track their whereabouts, and even listen in, clandestinely, on their children’s environment.

smartwatchThat last feature has come to the attention of the authorities in Germany, who say that such features are illegal under that country’s laws.   The Federal Network Agency announced that it is banning the sales of watches that have a listening function.

The listening function allows parents to connect to the watch without their child’s knowledge and to turn on a microphone on the watch.  This allows parents to hear what their child is saying.  It also allows them to hear other people who might be speaking in an area within a few feet of their child.

The agency has discovered that a few parents have been using this feature to listen to their child’s teachers while they are at school.

Many smartwatches that have been offered for sale on the German market include this feature, which is known by various names, including “baby monitor,” or “monitor function.”

In Germany, the manufacture, possession or sale of listening devices that are disguised as another object is explicitly illegal.

smartwatchAs such, the agency has banned the sale of these watches, has taken action against a few of the manufacturers, and has announced that they will destroy any watches that they have confiscated.

Obviously, the laws of each country are different, and many countries in western Europe have strict laws regarding surveillance.   Laws of that kind are far less strict in the United States, and in many states, there many not be any such laws at all.

The feature was undoubtedly not created for use as a secret surveillance device, but that is the nature of all electronic tools.  Many of them are likely to be used for exactly their intended purpose; in this case, simply checking in on your child every now and again to ensure that they are safe.

Unfortunately, clever people can always find a way to repurpose such devices and to use them for other, and illegal, uses for which the devices were not originally intended to be used.

We’ve seen this sort of thing over and over again, and we’ll likely see more of it in the future as our overall society becomes more connected.

In the meantime, a potentially useful feature of smartwatches has been removed from the marketplace in Germany.

Smartwatches are nice tools, but schoolchildren would likely benefit from having a more traditional watch, anyway.  Sooner or later, every child will need to learn how to tell time using an old fashioned analog clock with hands.

While digital may be the future, there are still millions of analog clocks in use, so why not just get your child an automatic watch instead?  They can learn how to tell time and they’ll have an interesting piece of “old school” technology to show off.