Not Even Your TV is Safe from Privacy Concerns and Data Mining

February 9th 2015

Alicia Lutes

Well here's a ridiculous, dystopian novel-esque future thing that's real and happening right now: Samsung's newest model of Smart TVs are recording what you say. And not only that, but they're saving those recordings — even if the content is unrelated to the act of watching TV — and sending them to be analyzed by an unnamed third party. Sure, Samsung claims this service was made in the name of making TV watching better for you — but is it really? And with all we know about data-mining, can we really trust that our privacy and best interests as consumers are being considered when we don't really know what they're actually doing with that information? To say nothing of the fact that we're now talking to our TVs rather than at them.

Basically, it's like the Xbox One Kinect privacy concerns all over again. At least Samsung rolled it out with the option of turning it off.

Still, the facts are unsettling and bizarre. According to the privacy statement on the new TVs, in order 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."

But the kicker is perhaps the last line of the whole thing: "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."


So not only are these new TVs capturing voice commands, text, and other data from you, Samsung is also transmitting that data to a third party who will then use that information for who knows what purposes, with unverified (or even stated at all, to be frank) policies on making sure that data is safe. And really, let's be frank: any enhanced user experience is ultimately just code for "selling you stuff better." Is more advertising intelligence really servicing anyone other than the corporations themselves? Corporations can claim that these technologies are being used to create a better user experience, but to what end? Is that "user experience" really all that necessary? And that's not even taking into consideration how just plain creepy it is that your TV could be spying on you at any moment.

The whole thing feels like a cautionary tale, to say nothing of the eerie similarities as pointed out by Parker Higgins:

The future is a scary place, isn't it?