Samsung smart TV’s secretly eavesdrop on users

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Samsung’s smart televisions might just be listening in on your conversation, if the company’s latest privacy policy is to be believed.

Is my Smart TV listening to me?

As the number of devices connected to the Internet explodes, there are more and more devices relying on voice recognition technology to allow hands-free control. Last year for example, Amazon announced a connected speaker with a Siri-style digital assistant which can add items to your e-commerce shopping basket. Internet-enabed ‘smart TVs’ also allow couch potatoes to speak to their television rather than using a remote control, even though there’s questionable value in being able to talk to your TV.

Samsung Smart TV

One of Samsung’s Internet-enabled TVs at CES in Las Vegas

Clearly, more devices have their own ears to hear what their owners are saying, and in the background, these devices are sending our conversations up to the cloud to mine our conversations for any snippets of useful information that can be used to send us useless marketing materials and adverts.

Hence, there’s a huge potential for misuse and intrusion caused by voice-activated services. And Samsung, which makes dozens of Internet-connected smart televisions, has announced a new privacy policy covering its smart TVs which says the following:

You can control your SmartTV, and use many of its features, with voice commands. If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.

This is just another example of privacy concerns involving smart televisions, many of which collect data about their users and send that back to the TV maker and ultimately shared with advertisers. The fact that the policy basically says any sensitive information will be collected is worrying, knowing that third parties could be listening in.

It’s all rather creepy, but at least Samsung has clearly stated the policy for all to see. Unfortunately, the average user will never get to see the privacy policy, and own’t be bothered to disable the voice recognition feature on the TV. Samsung does allow users to disable this “feature” and instead use more limited voice commands, and in that case the company says that they do not harvest any words uttered.

Samsung Smart TV - Model

Poor love. If only she knew that she was being listened to by Big Brother.

However, these type of televisions still gather usage information and other inputs for data mining purposes. So, it’s not exactly easy to opt out of being tracked. Our advice is to not purchase any kind of smart TV and instead buy the best “dumb screen” TV you can afford, and hook it up to computer instead.

When will the public realise that smart televisions are an absolute waste of money, and are out of date as soon as you buy them. In the mean time, the TV manufacturers will keep peddling their wares on the unsuspecting consumers.

SOURCE: Samsung

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