Take note of that fancy voice-controlled feature on your smart TV. Picture: Scalar
Take note of that fancy voice-controlled feature on your smart TV. Picture: Scalar

New smart TV? Take a look at its privacy policy

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published Aug 1, 2018

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It sounds like a blockbuster sci-fi movie, starting with the simple things like your gadgets spying on you and ends with machines taking over the world.
Whether you’re a Terminator fan or not, digital paranoia is something not to be taken likely.

The IoT (Internet of Things) is making it easier for our devices to log and store our information. So the big question is: What are they doing with all that data?

And if you, like millions across the world, are the proud owner of a smart TV, you’ll probably want to know that Samsung has changed its smart TV privacy policy. So read the fine print carefully.

Tech bloggers and specialist websites were quick to spot the difference between its 2015 policy and an undated version.

If your TV is voice-controlled, take note. The Daily Beast and other publications noted that this convenient command feature could be capturing more than your simple voice requests.

Samsung’s 2015 smart TV policy stated: “If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

Its current updated policy states: “To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications Inc) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and to an extent to provide the Voice Recognition features to you.

“In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts to provide Voice Recognition to 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.”

Your data is being collected by a third party, so what are they doing with it? Picture: Max Pixel

Vague, isn’t it?

On the surface, there’s nothing to worry about. The tech giant is merely collecting voice data to give customers a better, more seamless user experience.

But US privacy advocate Jessica Rich thinks otherwise. In 2016 she told a smart TV workshop hosted by the Federal Trade Commission: “Smart TVs are testing the privacy expectations consumers developed in the era of traditional television.”

She’s not that far off: CNBC reported in March last year that WikiLeaks revealed Samsung smart TV owners are particularly vulnerable to spying. A programme called Weeping Angel was designed to make it look like your smart TV is switched off, when in fact it is not.

The smart TV “operates as a bug - recording conversations in the room and sending them over the internet to a covert server,” WikiLeaks said.

Even if it’s not Samsung’s intention to spy on its consumers, it’s scary that a feature supposed to be a convenience could be used for clandestine purposes.

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