FBI warns Barbie doll could be used for child porn

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The FBI has issued a “cyber crime alert” for a new Barbie doll that comes equipped with a tiny hidden video camera in her chest, saying the toy could be misused to make child porn.

The Barbie Video Girl doll is shown in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters December 6, 2010. REUTERS/Mattel/Handout

The report, issued by the FBI’s Sacramento field office November 30 and titled “Barbie ‘Video Girl’ a Possible Child Pornography Production Method,” warns that the doll’s camera captures up to 30 minutes of footage that can be downloaded to a computer.

But an FBI spokeswoman downplayed the document, saying it was intended for internal use by law enforcement, not the media, and such warnings are not unusual. It was apparently sent to some news organizations by mistake.

“There have been no reported incidents of this doll being used as anything other than as intended,” Washington-based FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said, reading from a prepared statement.

“For clarification purposes, the alert’s intent was to insure that law enforcement agencies were aware that the doll, like any other video-capable equipment, could contain evidence and to not disregard such an item during a search,” she said.

Shearer added that the Situational Information Report had been “taken out of context” in the media and “our intent was to aid law enforcement in evidence gathering.”

The Barbie Video Girl Doll, which is manufactured by Mattel and first went on sale in July, contains a small video camera in its chest, concealed inside a locket.

Footage from the camera can be viewed on an LCD screen in the doll’s back or downloaded to a computer. The FBI alert said there was no indication it could be streamed directly to the Internet.

“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 said in a written statement provided to Reuters.

“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,” Mattel said.

According to the Mattel website, the doll, which sells for $49.99, has been nominated for 2011 Toy of the Year.

“Girls can record and play back clips with this multi-tasking doll, which has a video camera built right in,” the website says in part.

“Capture everything from a dolls-eye view and 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!”

Additional reporting by Dhanya Skariachan in New York