Samsung Smart TVs suspected of recording conversations

By Aileen Graef  |  Feb. 9, 2015 at 10:12 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Privacy concerns surround Samsung after its Smart TV privacy policy notes personal information spoken in front of the TV can be transmitted to a third party.

In words that are set to arouse Orwellian fears, the policy warns anyone speaking in front of the TV with its voice activation may have their conversations transmitted to a third party.

You can control your SmartTV, and use many of its features, with voice commands. If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. 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.

A spokeswoman from Samsung told CNET that all customers just need to deactivate the voice recognition and make sure they don't speak when there is a microphone on the screen to prevent their private conversations from being recorded.

"Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously. In all of our Smart TVs we employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers' personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use," she said. "Should consumers enable the voice recognition capability, the voice data consists of TV commands, or search sentences, only. Users can easily recognize if the voice recognition feature is activated because a microphone icon appears on the screen."

One observant activist over at Electronic Frontier Foundation noted the similarities between the TV and the Big Brother spy device in George Orwell's 1984.

The ability to turn off the voice recognition feature makes it a different situation than the authoritarian state imagined by Orwell, but that hasn't halted consumers concerns.

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