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Samsung smart TV is always listening

Samsung smart TV is listening in on private conversations

Oh Snap, it seems the Samsung smart TV you just bought for Christmas comes with a surprise spying feature you probably didn’t know about, since there are few people who bother reading privacy policies nowadays. Reporters from The Register have analyzed the privacy policy of Samsung smart TVs in the UK and have come across interesting things that most of you probably don’t even know about. If you have a Samsung smart TV in your home, you might start thinking twice before having a private conversation in front of it. Very 1984 isn’t it?

One neat feature that is now included in the Samsung Smart TV is the ability to respond to voice commands, something that has become standard in all new technologies, not just television sets. Now there isn’t a problem there, but the way the TV collects data in order to be able to understand voice commands is tricky. Since the Samsung smart TV doesn’t come with a high-end processor, it can’t decode language on the spot, instead sending information through the cloud and having it “translated” there. That information is sent to a third-party service which remains unnamed in the privacy policy.

The privacy policy for the Samsung smart TV reads: “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.” From that paragraph, The Register deduced two things, which are frightening and truly reminiscent of George Orwell’s dystopic novel. First off, Samsung can identify individual, although it’s not clear whether by using MAC addresses or logins. The second practice of the Samsung TV is clear from the last sentence: the TV will record anything you say and send it through to that third-party service we mentioned earlier.

Now that means that if you are using a Samsung smart TV, it’s going to catch anything you say to it and send it forward, not differentiating between passwords, names, addresses, private conversations and more. Aside from that, if you don’t enable voice recognition, the TV will still record things and store them. “If you do not enable Voice Recognition, you will not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, although you may be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands. While Samsung will not collect your spoken word, Samsung may still collect associated texts and other usage data so that we can evaluate the performance of the feature and improve it.”

If you don’t want your data and personal conversations and such to be sent to Samsung servers, your only choice is to disable voice recognition data collection. That will turn off the feature and you won’t be able to control the Samsung Smart TV with your voice, and it won’t collect and record any information you’re providing while watching TV. Those of you own smart TVs, be sure to always read the privacy policy. Who knows how far your information can travel from Samsung servers, even though the company has reiterated that the data is encrypted and cannot be used by unauthorized people. That doesn’t mean malevolent characters can’t get their hands on it.

About Egon Kilin

My life-long dream has been to test out every gadget on the market! Considering the fact that I've rapidly destroyed almost every gadget I've had so far, I'm not inclined to owning something, so my ideal outcome would be to have a different gadget each month. I'm really into smartphones, wearables and tablets and I love Playstation and Xbox, I'm sure I'll beat you at your own game (after a month of training... or two)