Online Privacy Issues

In a consumer warning that could have come straight out of the book, “1984”, Samsung is letting its customers know – speaker beware, if you own a smart TV.

“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 privacy policy states in regards to its SmartTV.

The voice recognition feature lets you request content by simply asking for it. However, even if you opt-out of the feature in the television’s settings, the set will still capture anything that is said. That is a pretty scary thing, wouldn’t you think?

So, your smart TV is spying, listening and reporting what is said in your living room, or heaven forbid, your bedroom. But exactly who is doing the listening – who is considered a third party?

Of course the one-sentence warning is buried in the fine print, and Samsung does not give a list or indication who are the third party(s) listening and gathering your information. Samsung says not to worry as the data is encrypted and therefore, secure. The company says it “takes consumer privacy very seriously” and “employs industry-standard security safeguards and practices” to ensure your personal information is safe from hackers.

Michael Price, counsel at the Brennan School for Justice at NYU Law School, wrote in Salon magazine that he was “afraid” to use his new smart TV after opening the lengthy privacy policy.

“I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customized content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access,” Price wrote.

Samsung’s privacy policy also states that in addition to voice commands being transmitted, information about your device may also be sent over the internet to the company’s third parties.

Samsung says that you control the feature; voice recognition may be turned on or off by the user. “The TV owner can also disconnect the TV from the Wi-Fi network”.

But after all, doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of a smart TV?

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