Date
19 November 2017
Samsung says the voice recognition feature can be turned off by adjusting the settings, but that will not prevent the company from continuing to collect data on how people use Smart TV. Photo: Reuters
Samsung says the voice recognition feature can be turned off by adjusting the settings, but that will not prevent the company from continuing to collect data on how people use Smart TV. Photo: Reuters

Samsung warns Smart TV ‘listens’ to viewers’ conversations

Be careful what you say in front of the telly. Big Brother is listening.

Samsung warns its customers that the new privacy policy for its internet-connected Smart TVs allows the company and its partners to listen in on its users, BBC News reported. This is possible if the owner uses the TV set’s voice activation feature. 

“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,” the policy states.

The policy has drawn the ire of privacy campaigners, who said the technology smacked of the telescreens used to spy on citizens in George Orwell’s dystopia novel 1984, the BBC said.

The warning came to light when news website the Daily Beast published an excerpt of a section of Samsung’s privacy policy for its Smart TV sets.

Samsung has said the feature can be turned off by adjusting the settings, but that will not prevent the company from continuing to collect data on how people use the TV, the Independent newspaper reported.

“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,” the policy states.

The company said it does not retain voice data or sell the audio being captured. Smart-TV owners will know if voice activation is turned on because a microphone icon will be visible on the screen, it said.

Corynne McSherry, an intellectual property lawyer, told the Daily Beast that the third party was probably the company providing speech-to-text conversion for Samsung.

She added: “If I were the customer, I might like to know who that third party was, and I’d definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form.”

The third party handling the translation from speech to text is a firm called Nuance, which specializes in voice recognition, Samsung has confirmed to the BBC.

A similar case surfaced in late 2013, when a British information technology consultant found his LG TV set was gathering information about his viewing habits.

The publicity about the issue prompted LG to create a software update which ensured data collection was turned off for those who did not want to share information, the report said.

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CG

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