Samsung’s TVs are listening-in

If you thought your living room was a safe place to have a private conversation, you might be wrong.

South Korean technology company Samsung has revealed that its Smart TVs are capable of listening to, recording and sending your private conversations to a third party.

The company claims in its privacy policy that the voice recognition software in its Smart TVs will capture voice commands to send to a third-party service, which uses them to “evaluate and improve the features”.  The name of the third party isn’t stated.  

The privacy policy also warns customers, “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.”

Deactivating the voice recognition settings may not make much difference, as the TV will still listen out for key command phrases, and “Samsung may still collect associated texts and other usage data.” 

However, customers who want to ensure their privacy are advised to disable data collection entirely from their TV through the settings menu, though this means disabling all voice command features.

Read more at The Age.

Opinion: Big Brother is watching

For me, George Orwell’s novel 1984 is coming to life more and more as technology evolves. Certainly, we have made impressive strides in medical, engineering and entertainment technology, but do we really have to push it this far?

I understand the concept of data collection, which serves an important function for a company to be able to assess the effectiveness and success of a product, and improve its efficiency for the customer. What I don’t understand is why Samsung needs to gather this information in a duplicitous way.

Samsung has made it clear in its privacy policy that even if customers opt-out of having their information forwarded by deactivating the voice recognition function, it will still send on their usage data information.

Emma Carr, director of privacy campaign group, Big Brother Watch, described the technology company’s move as “outrageous” and says that customers are being deceived and are left “with no knowledge or control over where [their] information goes or who has access to it”.

In 1984, citizens of the Oceanic society are clandestinely spied on by the Party through their telescreens. Meanwhile, Samsung maintains that it takes customer privacy seriously and that any collection of customers’ information is done so with the “utmost transparency”.

So citizens of the Oceanic society, similar Samsung Smart TV users, had their personal and private conversations monitored by a controlling body. I’ll admit it does seem that we don’t have it quite as bad – at least Samsung is being honest about its intentions.

What do you think of the way technology is developing? Do you think Samsung is being duplicitous about capturing and sending customer conversations to a third party? Do you own a Smart TV?

Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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