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Samsung: Do Not Discuss Sensitive Data in Front of Your TV, We Might Record It

Samsung: Do Not Discuss Sensitive Data in Front of Your TV, We Might Record It

by Clay Michael GillespieFebruary 12, 2015

People agree to so many terms and conditions that it’s almost ridiculous to read, truly, through all the fine print. It’s unfortunate, and also ridiculous, that Samsung decided to include a term so Orwellian in design in their recent privacy policy for their Smart TVs.

Believe it or not, by using a Samsung TV customers are susceptible to data collection transmitted to third parties. In fact, Samsung even warns customers to not discuss sensitive data in front of their TV, because it’s listening.

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.

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.

samsungIn response, people are taking to their copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and quoting the eerily similar text. Orwell writes that any sound his character Winston made is picked up by microphone. There is no way Winston would know if he was being listened to or not, but the Thought Police could tap in at any time.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, told News.Com.Au that the privacy policy is outrageous.

“It is outrageous that the company has even stated in its own privacy policy that if the TV’s owner does decide not to share their private information, then the company may still take the information anyway. This leaves users with no knowledge or control over where your information goes or who has access to it and that is simply unacceptable.”

When Microsoft unveiled their “always on” technology for the Xbox One, the move was met with similar disgust. The Xbox One has voice activation capabilities, leading consumers to be wary of when they were listening and what they were collecting.

Fortunately for Microsoft, they were able to scrap the idea before their product hit the market. Samsung, however, kept on their plan and clearly knew full and well what they were doing.

The Samsung Response? Trust Us, We Won’t Abuse Our Power

Samsung’s response was as canned as it was irresponsible. Instead of listening to consumer outcry and reworking their plans, they simply told everyone to trust them.

“Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties. 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.”

People have seen time and time again though that trustless systems heavily outweigh situations where trust is key. If Samsung isn’t going to sell customer data, why won’t they expressly write it in their terms and conditions? That way customers won’t have to go on their promises, and instead can hold them to a legally binding agreement.

Of course, making a legally binding promise may not be what Samsung had in mind.

Images from Shutterstock.

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