A Television That Listens

There is plenty to worry about already, in a time where it is normal to be feeling as if your personal information is at risk. From your cell phone to your laptop, home computer and tablet, everything you download and every webpage you look at is tracked. It may not be tracked maliciously, or with the intent of using the information, but your privacy is constantly at risk. You would feel that maybe being at home in your living room, speaking with your family, that you may be able to keep the conversation to yourself. Unfortunately, that may not be so.

After countless complaints about privacy, the electronics business Samsung finally admitted that the smart TVs they have put out into the market, may actually be listening in on your conversations (if the viewer permits, Samsung has clarified). This passionate outcry started after they sent out an updated version of their privacy policy for their line of smart televisions. After giving it a read-through, many people felt that the wording in the policy dictated that Samsung has been listening in on its consumers. In layman’s terms, it says that since they owned the TV, it’s actually had the ability to recognize your verbal commands so that you may operate it easier.

They stated that if you have this feature enabled, that any spoken words that you may use that includes personal and sensitive information, will indeed be captured and transmitted via the voice recognition. Samsung attempted to calm the outrage by making a blog post in order to clarify further. They claimed that there was confusion over how the sentence was worded, and offered a more in depth explanation of the voice recognition system. There seem to be a few differences between the original privacy policy, and this newly released blog.

The people at Samsung explained that the third party that collects all of the voice recordings and data (which was previously unnamed), is in fact Nuance Communications, which is a well-known producer of voice recognition tech. They also clarified that their televisions do not collect every piece of information or spoken word in the surrounding room. For one, an activation button must be used or selected on the screen in order for it to begin working, and the user needs to speak directly in the remote itself where the microphone is located. They reiterated that voice recognition could definitely be turned off at any time, though it would result in the loss of the voice control for the television. Thankfully, this has reassured some users.

Samsung promises that they are very serious about the privacy of the consumer, and that they always create new devices while keeping that in mind. They have not, however, disclosed how users can go about deleting any previous recordings, or if that is even an option for them. They also don’t disclose how long Nuance stores the information for. While many know that Amazon’s Echo uses similar technology, they at least give the users a step-by-step guide as to how to delete recordings. Perhaps Samsung still has a few more things to learn.