Samsung Warns: Do Not Discuss Personal Information in Front of Smart TVs

A troubling line in Samsung’s privacy policy has boosted the modern digital paranoia, especially in those who own one of those ‘Smart TV’ sets.

Namely, these sets might listen to their owners,  and the convenient voice command feature could be capturing more than they feel comfortable with.

The 2015 Samsung Smart TV privacy policy claimed that in case our spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.

However, this has been updated in the following way:

“If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you.

Also, 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.

Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control.”

Among the many, Emma Carr, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, reacted by saying that the company needs to understand that not everyone wants to be spied on by their TV and that it is outrageous that it mentioned in its privacy policy that if the customer does decide not to share their private information, Samsung may still take the information anyway.

Yet, the intention of Samsung might be to collect voice data to give their customers an improved television experience.

Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, informed that it uses a third-party service to convert speech to text” to make the Smart TV even smarter.

In defense of the accusations, Samsung told The Daily Beast that all their Smart TVs have industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure the personal information of their customers and prevent unauthorized collection or use.

The company also pointed out that Samsung isn’t far from the only company doing this and mentions that LG was in a similar situation in 2013.

Moreover, the tech giant told the Guardian that the fears were completely overblown as in all of their Smart TVs any data gathering or their use, is carried out with utmost transparency.

They also mentioned that they provide meaningful options for consumers to freely choose or to opt out of a service, and their industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, protect their consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.

Samsung advises its customers to not enable Voice Recognition, so it would not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, while you will still be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands. You can also disable Voice Recognition data collection at any time by visiting the ‘settings’ menu.

Even though this might prevent your worries about being tracked to an extent, we also suggest the following steps to protect your online privacy and have a much safer and relaxed online experience:

  • Regularly change your passwords
  • Use only secure WI-Fi connections
  • Always read the fine print
  • Do not give out your personal information
  • Keep your PC virus-free
  • Switch search engines