Samsung SmartTV May Record Personal Conversations


Following an outcry on internet forums yesterday, buyers of Samsung SmartTVs are advised to check the privacy policy.

Fans of George Orwell maintain that he was a visionary, and it would seem they are right given the latest controversy to arise around smart televisions. People are being warned that the high-tech sets are recording their conversations and sending the data to “third parties,” much like the telescreens in Orwell’s novel 1984.

Samsung’s controversial privacy policy

Samsung’s SmartTV includes a voice command feature which allows viewers to change channel, play DVDs or navigate the internet simply by speaking at the screen or the remote, write Dan Hyde and Victoria Ward in The Telegraph. However a close reading of the privacy policy reveals that the television sets may also be recording normal conversations.

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Now television companies and campaign groups are warning people not to discuss personal matters in the presence of their television or remote. Emma Carr, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:

“Few people would expect a TV to intrude on our privacy, yet this is increasingly becoming the case. As this sort of technology is being made to gather increasing amounts of data about us, it is vitally important that people should have to choose to make use of these additional services.”

Third-party provider

Simple commands or queries such as changing channel are handled by the television itself, but for more complex requests data is collected and sent to a separate company over the internet. It is not yet known whether this data could be used for marketing purposes or whether it is held securely.

Samsung’s privacy policy states: “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,” and a later passage suggests that voice recordings may continue to be collected for evaluation purposes even if the user disables the Voice Recognition feature.

For its part Samsung maintains that its SmartTV does not passively record conversations, and claims that it “takes consumer privacy very seriously,” however a spokesman was unable to confirm whether its third-party provider used the voice recordings for any other purposes.

Will we soon see people being prosecuted based on voice recordings taken by their smart televisions? If people are capable of taking incriminating selfies then perhaps it won’t be too long until smart televisions lead to legal problems.