Samsung's Smart TV Privacy Policy Raises Accusations Of Digital Spying, So What's The Deal?

Samsung's SmartTV Privacy Policy Raises Accusations of Digital Spying

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.

This idea of a Smart TV Big Brother sent websites accusing Samsung of spying on its users and selling its data for profit. No evidence of such data sleuthing has been recorded, but Samsung's privacy policy is considered exhibit A. TechCrunch also pointed out that EFF activists also took to Twitter and began comparing Samsung's privacy policy to text from George Orwell's technological dystopian novel, 1984.

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]

WATCH MORE: Entertainment News


    and this differs in ANYWAY from Apple or Googles voice recognition how? Who gives a shit what happens to the data, you all post every minute bullshit piece of info about yourself on FBook anyway

      When someone posts something on Facebook directly, they are doing so of their own volition. When a TV collects data on you and you don't know that is spying.

      The problem is that this is an ambiguous problem because it is stated in the Terms and Conditions however Samsung and every other manufacturer out there know that 90% + of people out there don't read that stuff (refer to South Park's Human Cent-i-pad episode which is a humourous take on this problem).

      That said, in my opinion, Samsung (and others) should not offer a service if they cannot assure us of the security because they are palming it off to others.

        In other industries it is unheard of. If the steering failed in my car the manufacturer wouldn't palm it off to the supplier of the part they used. They may take legal action against them but the manufacturer wouldn't deny responsibility.

          Comparing goods (like the components of your car) with services (like data analysis) is rarely going to be an apt or fair comparison.

          For one, goods can have both quality assurance and quality control, services can only have quality assurance. The difference is important because in your analogy, quality control is the part that lets your car's manufacturer ensure their supplier's products are up to standard and can take responsibility (as a QC failure) if they're not. Without the opportunity for QC, one company can discuss another's QA, but they have no opportunity to catch failures before they get to the customer.

        If it wants to hear your voice then it has to transmit data..
        I don't see it as snooping.. its a feature you can turn off and it warns you quite clearly of all risks..

      Exactly. People freak out about everything nowadays.

    At least they are up front about the possibility that your privacy will be compromised.

    Third party vendors are obviously providing the voice (and/or video) recognition algorithm and Samsung can't be held responsible for their use of your "metadata" (Statistical, logistical, logical and implied, information regarding the (voice) data you are generating, the data must be analysed in order to extract the most meaning from your communications necessitating full and complete recording, registration and and passing on to third party vendors, of all voice communications within detection range of the"smart" TV, this also allows the companies to fine tune their voice detection engines for local and regional dialects and pronunciations. yada yada.).

    'We' all will be living on a reality TV set before long.

    Don't worry however paranoid we may seem, it is highly probably that we are not paranoid enough. Regarding your personal data, no-one cares (truely), unless there is a sale to be made.

    Last edited 10/02/15 9:06 am

      Not sure if joking or doesn't know what Metadata is.

        " what does doesn't mean in that context? " (jk)-)

        That's half a joke, note inverted commas.

        However if confused I'm in good company with George Brandis and Tony Abbot, though they do change their definitions and reclarify from time to time.

        PS, Metadata is often more useful to service providers than actual data, as conclusions for population wide services can be made on metadata while the same conclusions couldn't be drawn from the actual data.

        No-one actually cares what you (unless of course you are a person of special interest) are actually saying (data) in your living room, but the fact that you are present and talking (metadata) at certain times of the day or week is of vital importance to certain marketing companies (even the general topic of conversation is useful). Same goes for your emails, topic of the email (which by all good communications practice should be in the header (jk)) isn't regarded as data but metadata, as the definition of metadata is very fluid, certain pieces of information within your internet and living-room communications could be reclassified as metadata at the government's convenience... so therefore they must press towards full retention of data to allow extraction of the relevant metadata after the fact.. (The statistics on the usage of a key word (or pattern of words) within a communique is metadata, while the actual words are data.)

        Sorry I have no idea what this all means.


        Last edited 10/02/15 2:04 pm

    Yep my LG does this too; when you first set it up, it tells you it will send audio of you voice commands to third parties, as well as report back your viewing habits - which apps, channels, devices etc. you are viewing and when. I mostly use my AppleTV with it, so they can only report that I'm viewing a HDMI input.

    “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,”

    This means jack when a human at Samsung still has to listen to the words to determine what is sensitive and what is TV jibber jabber.

    Nothing smart about these TVs.

    Maybe I'm getting old, but I still have no idea why a TV needs to be connected to the internet...

    Pretty sure my TV (Samsung Series 6 UE6400) only "listens" when I push the voice button on my remote.... So as long as you don't push it and say "My bank account password is BLAH" you should be fine, right?

      Series 6 required touch control to trigger voice recognition. Apparently later (or other) models don't require any input to begin voice recognition.

      ,right, totally, if it is unplugged (even then it may still be listening).

      Just because it doesn't respond doesn't actually mean that it isn't listening.

      Just like your laptop camera can be recording even if the light isn't on. (if the firmware has been hacked)

      gotta have a good lol. privacy is gone we have no choice but to trust our ISP and hardware vendors, because we can't actually check that they aren't breaching the said trust, until it is too late.

    I wonder what security is designed into these network connected TVs. Like, now that the knowledge of this has gone viral (so to speak), how long will it be before someone cracks into these TVs for their own purposes, and is able to get access to whatever is captured. So far as I know I don't think there are firewalls or anti-malware systems implemented in these TVs.

    I'd say it will be less than a week....

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