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Samsung Responds To Concerns Over Smart TV Privacy Policy

Samsung’s policy notes that voice commands are sent to a third party. Consumers worry it might send sensitive chats the TV overhears, too.

Samsung Responds To Concerns Over Smart TV Privacy Policy
[Photo: Flickr user Vernon Chan]

One sentence from a privacy policy for Samsung’s Smart TV voice recognition software has users up in arms about privacy concerns: Anything they say could automatically be sent to a third party.

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Overheard conversations will only be vacuumed up if users activate the voice recognition feature, but the privacy policy makes it apparent that there’s a price to pay for navigating your Smart TV via voice command:

“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. 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.”

According to The Guardian, the “third party” is likely Massachusetts-based voice recognition company Nuance, which provides the voice recognition software to Samsung as a white-label service.

Samsung responded to The Guardian‘s inquiries by pointing out that the Voice Recognition service is an optional feature and users can tell that it’s active by a microphone icon present on the screen. The company also noted that the data is protected via industry-standard encryption while traveling to and from the third party:

“Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties. If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.”

Back in 2013, Microsoft ignited a firestorm over the potential privacy violations of its always-listening Kinect device set to ship with its upcoming Xbox One. To enable its suite of features, the Kinect would continually listen to ambient conversations for Xbox-specific commands. The Kinect could even listen for heartbeats to better distinguish between individuals in the room.

While Microsoft ultimately buckled and dropped the Kinect from the Xbox One bundle to appease privacy-concerned gamers (and drop the system’s price), it sacrificed a vision of voice-controlled technological evolution to save face. Let’s hope Samsung has the foresight to nip this privacy concern in the bud before Smart TV owners embrace Orwellian levels of paranoia.

[via The Guardian]