Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Verizon sells this smartwatch/wrist phone for kids alongside a cell service plan. The watch, targeted at the younger kid age-group who aren't quite old enough to have a phone of their own, lets parents and caregivers track kids with GPS location, has video calling, voice calling, video messaging, an auto-answer features and an SOS button. Parents and guardians can set up a list of 19 trusted contacts that the child can call, set up reminders, track steps, and push to-do lists through the GizmoHub app. So, what about privacy? Verizon doesn't exactly have the best track record at protecting their users' privacy, so that's something parents should consider before strapping this device on their 6 year old's wrist.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Verizon isn’t exactly known as a company with a good reputation for protecting and respecting their user’s privacy. In fact, they’ve actually been kinda awful. There’s the proposed fine from the Federal Communications Commission for failing to protect consumer’s location data (they were accused of selling access to it when they shouldn’t have). There are the reports of them forcing people (even those who opt- out) into letting them look at your browsing history, including the websites you go to, what apps you use, and potentially even who you called or texted. And then there is their terrible stance on net neutrality (the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally, not given special treatment depending on where it comes from). Remember when they got caught throttling the data of California firefighters trying to battle a huge blaze in 2018. Yeah, Verizon isn’t exactly the most trustworthy company when it comes to privacy.
So, when they offer up a Gizmowatch and GizmoHub app for kids that can track them using GPS, uses cellular data to send calls, voice and text messages, as well as track steps and more, we admit, we were skeptical. Why would anyone want to let a company with such a history of privacy violations and bad acting track their young child?
And what does Verizon say they can do with this information? Well, they say this, “We use the information we collect to deliver, maintain, support and improve Gizmo services, including to provide you with precise geolocation information for your Gizmo devices, and for analytics. Approximate geolocation identifying an area of approximately 2/3 of a mile radius of your child may also be used by our partner Accuweather to provide weather updates if requested by GizmoWatch Disney Edition and GizmoWatch 2 users.” Which sounds like it might be fine, but also is rather vague.
What’s the worst that could happen with Verizon’s GizmoWatch? Well, this is a smartwatch that tracks location, has video and voice calling, and and auto-answer function that lets the watch automatically answer calls in 10 seconds and then end that call after one minute. That sort of "discreet monitoring" function always gives us pause as it seems easy to abuse. All of this and you have to trust Verizon -- a company that hasn't always been trustworthy when it comes to their consumers' privacy -- to protect everything this watch can collect. We are worried a lot could go wrong suggest you be cautious of Verizon's Gizmowatch.
One final consideration. We think there is a good question to be raised about teaching young children that the level of digital surveillance this smartwatch provides is OK. Maybe we should track kids a little bit less, and teach them constant surveillance isn’t exactly a good thing?
Tips to protect yourself
- Opt out from sale of personal information
- Parents, keep a sharp eye on parent controls and permissions.
- Do not sign up with third-party accounts. Better just log in with email and strong password.
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images, location unless necessary)
- Keep your app regularly updated
- Limit ad tracking via your device (eg on iPhone go to Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit ad tracking) and biggest ad networks (for Google, go to Google account and turn off ad personalization)
- Request your data be deleted once you stop using the app. Simply deleting an app from your device usually does not erase your personal data.
- When starting a sign-up, do not agree to tracking of your data if possible.
What can be used to sign up?
Apple and Google log-ins available
What data does the company collect?
Name, mobile telephone number, email address, and your child’s name, age, photo, and relationship to you. Name, address, email, phone numbers where you can be reached, images, date of birth, driver's license number, Social Security Number or Tax Identifier and payment information; Location
Audio and video call and messaging usage between you and your child and messages you send to your child If your child uses a GizmoWatch Disney Edition, you have the option to enter medical information via the GizmoHub app to display on the watch when someone presses the SOS button.
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
In March 2023, records on over 7 million Verizon users were posted to Breached Forums, a popular hacker forum. The data included contract information, device information, encrypted customer IDs, and more — but it does not appear that unencrypted personal data was included in the leak.
In 2021, Verizon overrided users’ opt-out preferences in a push to collect browsing history.
In 2020, a fine of $48.3M was proposed by FCC against Verizon in Location Information Case.
Verizon was fined in 2018 for selling users' locations.
In 2017, Verizon suffered a breach with 6 million records involved.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Verizon's privacy policies aren't the worst we've ever read but we wouldn't go so far as to call them user friendly.
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
You can report vulnerabilities to https://www.verizon.com/solutions-and-services/report-security-vulnerability/
Data breach exposed millions of Verizon customers' account infoAndroid Police
The Best Smartwatches and Phones for Kids 2023Wirecutter
The Best Smartwatches For Kids To Keep Families ConnectedForbes
Privacy and Security Evaluation of the Verizon GizmoWatchCommon Sense
Privacy Evaluation for GizmoHubCommon Sense
Verizon faces scrutiny for automatically tracking subscriber informationConsumer Affairs
The Best Smartwatches For Kids (And Parents) To Stay ConnectedForbes
The Best Smartwatches and Phones for KidsThe New York Times
Smartwatch Privacy for Kids During the Coronavirus PandemicCommon Sense
Verizon might collect your browsing data even if you previously opted outEngadget
Verizon customers might want to check their privacy settings ASAPInput
FCC Proposes $48.3M Fine against Verizon in Location Information CaseFederal Communications Commission
How To Opt Out of Verizon’s New Data Collection PolicyClark
Verizon Breach: 6 Million Customer Accounts ExposedBank Info Security
Verizon might be collecting your browsing history and here’s how to stop itThe Verge
Verizon overrides users’ opt-out preferences in push to collect browsing historyArs Technica
Use the Verizon app? Check your settings to protect your privacyUSA Today
The FCC Fines Wireless Companies for Selling Users' Location DataWired
Got a comment? Let us hear it.