Eavesdropping concerns in Samsung smart TVs (Update)

Samsung reveals potential for smart TVs to eavesdrop
In this Jan. 5, 2015 photo, models pose with a Samsung Electronics Co.' SUHD 4K smart TV during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. Samsung Electronics Co. on Tuesday, Feb, 10, 2015, said voice recognition technology in its Internet connected TVs can capture and transmit nearby conversations.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Watch what you say in your living room. Samsung's smart TV could be listening. And sharing.

At least that's what you'd conclude in reading Samsung's privacy policy for smart TVs. Voice recognition technology in Samsung's Internet-connected TVs captures and transmits nearby conversations. The policy warns, "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."

In a blog post Tuesday, Samsung said it is removing that sentence and clarifying the policy "to better explain what actually occurs."

For the voice command feature to work, the TV listens for predefined commands such as changing the channel or the volume. That speech isn't stored or transmitted, according to Samsung. But the remote control also has a microphone that can not only respond to those commands but also search for content, such as requests to recommend a good movie. The speech is translated by third-party software into text and sent back to the TV as a command.

Although Samsung initially declined to name the software company, the blog post identifies it as Nuance Communications Inc. The TV also transmits other information including its unique identifier, both to provide the service and to improve the feature.

Samsung reveals potential for smart TVs to eavesdrop
In this Jan. 5, 2015 photo, a journalist passes by Samsung Electronics Co.' SUHD 4K smart TVs on display outside the venue of a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. Samsung Electronics Co. on Tuesday, Feb, 10, 2015, said voice recognition technology in its Internet connected TVs can capture and transmit nearby conversations. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Samsung said voice recognition on the remote must be activated by pressing a button. It's similar to how Siri and Google Now voice assistants work on smartphones. If the feature isn't activated, there's no threat of eavesdropping, Samsung said. Users will see microphone icon on the screen when it is on. Users can disable the feature, but voice control would then be limited to predefined commands.

The South Korean company said it takes consumer privacy "very seriously."

"We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers' personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use."

It is not the first time that smart TVs sparked privacy concerns. In 2013, the owner of a LG Electronics smart TV revealed it was sending information about his viewing habits back to the company without consent and without encrypting data.

LG has also experimented with displaying targeted ads on its smart TVs, which requires collecting and utilizing user data, such as their location, age and gender.

Explore further

LG admits collecting smart TV viewer habits data

More information: Link to Samsung's privacy policy for smart TV: www.samsung.com/sg/info/privacy/smarttv.html

Blog post: global.samsungtomorrow.com/sam … g-room-conversations

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: Eavesdropping concerns in Samsung smart TVs (Update) (2015, February 10) retrieved 23 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-02-samsung-reveals-potential-smart-tvs.html
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User comments

Feb 10, 2015
If you want to take it "very seriously." then stop sending packages back to yourself after you sold it.

Feb 10, 2015
Sounds rather 1984 to me. The TV is watching YOU.
I dunno, but having open (read: internet connected) cameras/microphones in your house isn't such a hot idea as far as I'm concerned.

Feb 10, 2015
1984 is a good thing because big brother can protect granny from the thug who wants to rob her. Big Brother can protect you from online scams, can protect children from domestic violence.

"You took a shit one hour too early today. You need to eat more fiber. This is your only remaining warning for this month. Future warnings will result in a $1 penalty."

"You wiped with too many tissues. This is your only remaining warning..."

"Johnny, you already drank a soda today. This is your final warning. This is a violation of the SCUBI protocols (Sugar Consumption Undermines Body Index)."

Perfect way to catch those illegal fisherman.

Feb 10, 2015
The problem with "industry-standard security safeguards and practices" is that they are weak and do nothing to protect privacy. Information collected by the industry is often sold to third parties, such as, advertisers.

Not everything that is collected is sold but enough is to clearly show that user privacy is not a priority. There is a reason why it is often said that the users of many applications, services or devices have become the real product.

Manufacturers and developers are attracted to an ongoing source of income after the initial purchase and social attitudes on privacy have been changing.

Before smart phones made in app advertising normal, that sort of thing on a PC would be labelled adware by antivirus software and was considered to be malware to be removed. The same was true of spyware that monitored and reported data to third parties, much like we see on smart devices today.

Attitudes have changed a lot over the last decade.

Feb 11, 2015
My older SmartTV is my LAST SmartTv.. Acutually, it's my last SAMSUNG TV of aNY design.
Fortunatley my own SmartTV is an older DumberTV without this incredibly dangerous and invasive technology!

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