In an alert entitled “Barbie ‘Video Girl’ a Possible Child Pornography Production Method,” the FBI said the doll has a built-in hidden camera in the chest and a small LCD screen for video display in her back.
The FBI “cyber crime alert” doesn’t cite any misuse of the doll, which has been on the market since July, but talks about the possibility.
“FBI investigation has revealed instances where an individual convicted of distributing child pornography had given a Barbie doll to a 6 year old girl,” the alert said.
The document went on to cite the findings of another investigation that found “examples where a concealed video camera had recorded child pornography.” That camera didn’t involve a doll, FBI special agent Frederick Gutt in Seattle, Washington, said Friday.
“The possibility of the combination of these two in a single device presents a concern for investigators,” said the alert, dated November 30.
“Law enforcement is encouraged to be aware of unconventional avenues for possible production and possession of child pornography, such as the Barbie Video Girl,” the document said.
The doll’s camera can capture 30 minutes of footage, and the video can be downloaded and streamed live to a computer, but there is no indication it can be streamed directly to the Internet, the FBI alert said.
The notice is written for law agencies only, but someone at the FBI mistakenly sent it to media outlets in Seattle, said Dupre of the FBI’s Sacramento, California, office, which distributed the notice.
“It was an inadvertent dissemination of the document,” Dupre said. “There have been no reported incidents of this doll being used as anything other than as intended.”
Seattle media accounts of the FBI alert prompted some parents to express concerns about the doll.
“That plays into these people who prey upon our children’s ideals. It frightens me,” William Porres, a Tacoma, Washington, grandfather, told CNN affiliate KING. He said he will not buy the doll for his 6-year-old granddaughter.
“Oh, she would love it, but she’s more important to me than a giggle on Christmas morning,” Porres said.
A Mattel Inc. spokesman could not be reached for comment, but the toymaker issued a statement to KING:
“The FBI is not reporting that anything has happened. Steve Dupre from the FBI Sacramento field office has confirmed there have been no incidents of this doll being used as anything other than its intent. Mattel products are designed with children and their best interests in mind. Many of Mattel’s employees are parents themselves and we understand the importance of child safety — it is our number one priority,” the statement said.
“The cyber alert was meant for law enforcement only and was taken out of context,” Gutt said. “The intent was to aid law enforcement in evidence gathering.”
The Mattel website says the $49.99 doll, for kids ages 6 and up, has been nominated for the 2011 Toy of the Year Award.
“Budding filmmakers, take note: Barbie doll now doubles as a video camera!” the website says. “Girls can record and play back clips with this multi-tasking doll, which has a video camera built right in. Capture everything from a doll’s-eye-view, then watch it instantly or upload to your computer. There’s an LCD screen on Barbie doll’s back, and a camera lens hidden discreetly in her necklace. Talk about making movies in style!”
According to a ex-law enforcement officer, quoted on Tech Crunch,
As a 15 year veteran law enforcement officer and father of 3 little girls I can say without hesitation that this is a f***ed up idea. Why would anyone buy such a thing and bring it into their home knowing that it’s capable of recording and broadcasting your most intimate moments. If your child is old enough to exercise discretion about what is appropriate material for distribution and broadcast then they probably aren’t interested in Barbie dolls anymore. Do you want your kid running around your house playing spy? What would it be like to see that the creepy guy that works at the local landfill has broadcasted old footage of your sweet little girl was innocently playing with her Barbie doll after taking her bath? Just food for thought from someone works in the darker side of reality.