Your Samsung SmartTV Can Hear and Record Everything You Say

Ahmed Bilal
Posted Feb 9, 2015
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Talk about being creepy, Samsung’s new SmartTV that uses voice recognition and interaction records everything you say, so better be careful about what say around it.

The Smart TV

Your recordings are sent to an unknown “third party”

It all started with a small yet absurd sentence in the SmartTV’s privacy policy. The sentence was highlighted on Reddit this Thursday and has since been the main debating topic related to privacy concerns of many of us. The privacy policy states (special emphasis on the sentence that is bold) :

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.

They add to this by saying that if you do not enable the voice recognition system, you won’t be able to use the interactive features that it provides. This does not mean that you won’t be able to verbally control your TV at all, but your commands will be limited to ‘predefined voice commands’.

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I know it is really weird to know that your TV is eavesdropping on you, and i’m sure many of us would not like personal information going to third parties that are not even named. This is why Samsung has provided a way out, but it makes you give away most of your voice control over your TV. So you actually can disable the Voice Recognition data collection from the settings menu but this will disable all of the interactive features that it provides and will only provide ‘limited voice commands’. Samsung responded to privacy concerns by stating 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 unauthorized collection or use.

Voice recognition, which allows the user to control the TV using voice commands, is a Samsung Smart TV feature, which can be activated or deactivated by the user. The TV owner can also disconnect the TV from the Wi-Fi network. Should consumers enable the voice recognition capability, the voice data consists of TV commands, or search sentences, only. Users can easily recognize if the voice recognition feature is activated because a microphone icon appears on the screen.

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.

The privacy policy also stated that when you watch a video or access third party applications not provided by the company, that third party might collect your personal information and so Samsung is not responsible if any such thing happens. What grinds my gears is that can’t people just not be lazy and use the remote, risking your privacy is far worse than moving your fingers to change the channel. But it seems some people think otherwise, I for one can’t imagine my TV listening to every word I say and I’m sure you’re reading this because you can’t either.

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