Mattel shelves Aristotle AI babyminder after privacy complaints

Occurred: May 2017

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Aristotle, a voice-activated smart assistant for kids, was cancelled after an uproar in which its developer Mattel was accused of using children as 'guinea pigs for AI experiments'.

Powered by Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant, Aristotle promised 'to aid parents and use the most advanced AI-driven technology to make it easier for them to protect, develop, and nurture the most important asset in their home—their children.' 

However, the device was pulled after lawmakers, child development experts and privacy advocates raised concerns about the data the device would collect, and the negative implications of technology replacing vital interactions with parents. 

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood complained (pdf) that 'Aristotle will make sensitive information about children available to countless third parties, leaving kids and families vulnerable to marketers, hackers, and other malicious actors. Aristotle also attempts to replace the care, judgment, and companionship of loving family members with faux nurturing and conversation from a robot designed to sell products and build brand loyalty.'


Developer: Mattel
Country: USA
Sector: Consumer goods
Purpose: Monitor babies
Technology: Digital assistant
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Privacy