It all started with a small, tucked away sentence in Samsung's SmartTV security policy. The head-scratching string of words was pointed out by a Redditor on last week, and has since sent websites and experts in debate over smart TV privacy, with opinions ranging from "so what" to quoted text from 1984.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, here's the paragraph in question:
"You can control your SmartTV, and use many of its features, with voice commands. If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, 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."
That means if you decide to go "live in the future" and turn on Game of Thrones with just your voice, the TV will translate that speech to text and whatever else you say and send the data to third-party companies.
— Parker Higgins (@xor) February 8, 2015
In defence of these fresh accusations, Samsung told The Daily Beast that "In all of our Smart TVs we employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers' personal information and prevent unauthorised collection or use," adding that customers can turn the feature off or disconnect the TV completely from your wifi." Tom's Guide also points out that Samsung isn't far from the only company doing this and mentions that LG was in a similar situation in 2013.
So why was Samsung so open about its alleged "snooping" policy? Well, it probably just wanted to cover its arse legally in case whatever third-party company it hawks your data to doesn't have strong security. Samsung even mentions a small bit of that possibility toward the document's conclusion.
Please note that when you watch a video or access applications or content provided by a third-party, that provider may collect or receive information about your SmartTV (e.g., its IP address and device identifiers), the requested transaction (e.g., your request to buy or rent the video), and your use of the application or service. Samsung is not responsible for these providers' privacy or security practices.
Depressingly enough, all of this is just more evidence that "yes, if your smart gadget is connected to the internet, then it's probably collecting data on you." So Samsung's privacy admission suddenly turns from surprise to status quo. Also, digital spying only adds to the already existing list of reasons why smart TVs really should die off like any other television fad. But TV manufacturers are making it pretty apparent that this fad is here to stay, and with it comes an era of televisions that can listen. [The Daily Beast and Tom's Guide]