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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

In what must be the loosest use of ‘privacy policy’ known to man, the intruding insert was first uncovered by online magazine the Daily Beast. Essentially, the policy reveals that the voice command feature found in an increased amount of today’s Smart TVs might be peering in on your every conversation.

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.”

 

samsung

 

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.

 

spying

 

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.

 

Your View

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.

 

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12 COMMENTS

  1. If there is one thing that we all should have learned from Edward Snowden it is that EVERYTHING we put on the Internet is collected by the NSA and our very own GCHQ. They have proven time and again that they can’t be trusted.
    What would your reaction be if your government told you that they wanted to put a device in your livingroom that recorded every word you and your family speak?

  2. It would be disappointing if the people tasked with keeping us safe from the criminal and terrorist threat were not already considering exploiting useful facets of this technology to help monitor those suspected of planning murder and mayhem here and abroad. However, they are not going to be wasting their precious time and limited resources monitoring you and me.

    The technology might not be much help to the forces of law and order anyway because the malefactors will also be aware of the risk of using eaves-dropping TVs and just won’t buy them. Even if they remain unaware of the risk, it will be some time before a significant proportion of the terrorist population of the UK has helpfully re-equipped itself with self-monitoring TVs.

  3. The IoT idea may not (currently) be a means to spy on your every move. But then, originally, neither was the smartphone. An idea sold on the basis of “computer in your pocket”, has now become a means of making money from your every move. And it’s pretty much impossible for us to stop it from doing so.
    So, IoT may be a benign and useful idea at the moment… But you can be sure it’s not gonna stay that way. People are much too greedy, to let a means of making cash pass them by. Samsung is just the start, and it’s not likely to stop. Anybody that truly believes their Smart TV isn’t spying on them (in some way), is just naive. Even if it’s only reporting on what TV programs you like to watch.

  4. When it comes down to it voice commands on Samsung tv’s STILL isn’t as quick or as accurate as just using EITHER of the smart tv’s remote’s. I have a Samsung smart 4K tv, but both the gesture and voice controls are turned off.
    Although it has improved,over the previous years models, voice control still reacts to dialogue coming from your external speakers occasionally and shows an on screen pop up asking you to repeat your command..
    We have generally become so lazy, wanting everything done for us, but we don’t want to accept the downsides of all this smart tech. Ask yourselves, if voice and gesture controls were so great, WHY would Samsung go to the extra expense of providing TWO remote’s for their high end smart sets anyway?
    Quite simply the Samsung brand tv’s are great tv’s. If you have concerns about these privacy issues then just use your set as the tv/monitor it was built for, and leave all the largely superfluous peripheral functions turned off. You will probably save a few quid in electricity over the year by NOT having them always monitoring you, as an extra bonus on top.
    It is all just laziness in most cases anyway. No one ever bought any tv just for it’s voice or gesture functions, except maybe Stephen Hawking or someone similarly disabled..
    These functions are just filler, which are built in to sell tv’s as being better than last years model!

  5. Fact that the internet now has the government snooping on people, ISP’s having black boxes and Internet TV’s sending data over the internet… why would a government need to whip up some legislation to access something that they have access to already???

    I think that the author of this article needs to get to grips with what technology can do and if legislation is needed or not…

    What needs to happen is these devices are packs to be inserted in to a slot, that way the owner has the choice to have all the features or to ensure their privacy is not invaded…

  6. Simply put if the functionality can not be physically removed or switched off, it is liable to be remotely controlled and switched on by others, (most likely your government on an individual level, or someone wishing to use that data to gain an advantage with regard to the demographic you fall under). It makes no odds that you have turned it off in the settings via the software interface.

    The best way to avoid having your privacy violated/ raped is to not have a TV that has that capability, or if you do, to open the TV and physically cut the microphone wire. But this only avoids the collection of the sound in your living room. It does not avoid the collection of other data. You can avoid that by not having an internet connected TV.

    Edward Snowden, has proved that anything that can be collected on you will be.

    You might not think you have anything you wish to hide, until some organisation proves so. So taking an example of what TV programmes you watch. If you like to watch horror or violent movies. The government may demographically put you in a higher risk bracket without you even knowing about it. If you record movies of the TV to watch later, that may be classed as illegal by the companies that created that film.

    The intention of all this data collection is to demographically group you, so that you can be managed and treated in away that best suits the elite.

    The alternative to all this is to just go with the flow, and ignore the ramifications that may not effect you at all. BUT remember this, will it effect your children your wife etc… How do you know what others are doing that could effect you by association.

  7. People need to realize that their freedom is almost over! Once those self-confessed ‘elites’ have what they want, the game is over – well for us at least. Time and again I have seen people walking around with that bloody thin plastic (or aluminium) phone strapped to their ears as though it’s life and death…we never needed 100yrs ago and we managed just fine, so why now? I bet a friend that he could not go without his phone or the internet for one week and I won lol. He said it felt as though his arms and legs had been cut off, I myself read a great deal and enjoy walks with my two staffies. I do NOT own a mobile phone and only use the internet to buy something or find something out, the TV is mostly in the unplugged state as all I see is a medium for large corps to sell, sell, sell !!

  8. Deluded nut jobs.
    Stop using the internet. Everyone in the whole wide world can see what you are writing.
    Stop using phones.
    Stop buying smart televisions.
    Stop buying anything at all. Because if you have a bank account, we know who you are, and we’re coming to get you.
    Why not just drop out altogether and live in a lonely wood somewhere with tin foil over your tent.
    Oh,,,and ask your doctor for some stronger meds. The ones you have aren’t working.

  9. There are conpiracy theories (moon-landings, 9/11 etc.) and conspiracy facts – one such is U.N. Agenda 21, to which all governments have signed up. This will, if allowed, institute among other things designed to control population density and placement, the ‘smart grid’, already being rolled out (at our expense) worldwide. https://smartgridawareness.org/agenda-21-and-sustainability/

  10. Put opaque tape over any microphones or cameras – at least you don’t have to trust the “feature turned off” feature.

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