Voice commanded TVs have got their benefits. Katie Hopkins blurts offensively onto your screen, you scrabble around to find the remote, ears bleeding from the guff being spouted on-screen. We’ve all been there. But alas, your Smart TV is alarmed by your screams of peril and changes the channel.
However, in a bizarre twist pulled straight from 1984, Samsung have recently moved to warn their customers that their Smart TV is using that very technology to eavesdrop on their every word.
Samsung Spy-enabled TVs
The policy outlines how Samsung Smart TVs are able to be listen in on your every word, data which is then moved on to third party companies. The exact reading goes:
“If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”
Corynne McSherry, an intellectual property lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told the Daily Beast that the third party was, in all likelihood, the company that provide Samsung which the speech to text conversion powering voice command. Indeed, Samsung confirmed that they do not sell on the data to third parties, for marketing purposes for example.
In a statement released in response to this scrutiny, they explained exactly how the process unfurls.
“If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.”
Thankfully, Samsung also confirmed they take “consumer privacy very seriously”.
Samsung’s defence comes in their pursuit of more accurate results from your commands. Pretty harmless then? What might alarm Samsung users however, and the general Smart TV-using public, is the potential scope this eavesdropping could grow to.
Should we Fear the Internet of Things?
The use of improving technology to increase government surveillance on its people has seen privacy elevated to a major political hot potato in the last few years. If Samsung and other Smart TV manufacturers are packing their sets with such intrusive technology, then concerns should be raised for the sinister applications it could be adapted for.
Agencies such as the NSA have been consistently exposed for their dedication to spying on its people. If the capability to listen in on private conversations extends through to innocent devices such as the home TV, government agencies could no doubt whip-up some legislation to make it easily accessible to them, alongside some typically washy waffle claiming it protects the common man.
Probably better not to discuss that KitKat you stole from the shop earlier when in ear shot of your TV then.
Similarly, an internet enabled device also harbours the ability to be hacked into. The opportunity to essentially place a wire tap into your home could be an attractive proposition for hackers looking for sensitive information.
It’s not the first time Smart TVs have borne the brunt of fears over the connected home. LG got themselves into hot water in November 2013. After being uncovered by IT consultant Jason Huntley, LG admitted that they’d been collecting data on viewing habits of their Smart TV customers. To further embarrass the red-faced tech company, they also confirmed that even when activating the privacy settings to block the sharing of their data, information was still collected.
And it raises an interesting point for consideration as we head into the Smart revolution. The embracing of ‘Internet of Things’ enabled devices can bring a new level of convenience to our lives. The challenge for manufacturers and consumers alike, is to use the technology responsibly.
The vision for the connected home enhances our lives by bringing previously ‘dead’ everyday objects to life. It’s not a tool for Google to use to collect information on our modern lives. It’s not a tool for hackers to steal personal details from us. And it’s certainly not a tool for governments to increase surveillance on its people, all in the name of countering extremism.
What’s your views on Samsung’s slightly creepy Smart TVs? Is your TV lurking in the corner of your room now, waiting to pounce on the first utterance of your family treasures location? Should we be worried about the use of smart home devices, given how this revelation has occurred so early into its emergence?
Let us know.