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Documents Show NSA Freaking Out Over Furbies

Their "AI" was considered a threat to security.

Image credit: Konektus Photo/Shutterstock

Do you remember Furbies? Those creepy (or sweet?) hairy creatures that you could talk to? While you were blissfully playing with the toy, the National Security Agency (NSA) was busy worrying about possible security breaches it could bring. Now we can finally see what they had to say about it.

Furbies were released in 1998, and a year later, The Washington Post reported the NSA's so-called "Furby Alert" prohibiting the toy from its spaces. Today, we can see what it was about thanks to an X/Twitter user known as @dakotathekat, who requested the documents covering the situation.

It appears that one NSA worker was concerned about Furbies as it was then believed they could learn a language by listening to its owners. The operative even went as far as to suggest there was an AI system embedded in the plushy body.

"It has come to my attention that a new toy on the market contains an Artificial Intelligence chip," they said. "Apparently these stuffed critters learn from nearby speech patterns. It would seem to me that this might be a security issue, in that they can pick up any spoken language and repeat it."

The NSA responded that "personally owned photographic, video, and audio recording equipment are prohibited items." Furbies were included in the list as they were toys "with built-in recorders that repeat the audio with synthesized sound to mimic the original audio signal."

The documents also reveal other employees' speculations: "Most speech processing records some audio samples one enough to produce statistics. Does the Furbie flush these buffers? How much information is in a sample? We could launch a study find out, but asking people to leave them at home sounds easier."

Today, we know these diabolic creatures couldn't actually learn anything from people's speech (imagine if they could back then, the world would be a different place now.) Still, not bringing toys of any kind to the NSA is probably a good idea anyway.

If you want to see what the organization was afraid of, check out this ChatGPT-powered Furby who wants world domination. 

Find the collection of scanned documents about the Alert here and join our 80 Level Talent platform and our Telegram channel, follow us on InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn, where we share breakdowns, the latest news, awesome artworks, and more.

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