Samsung warns users to watch what they say in front of Smart TVs
A "smart" TV that listens and responds to your voice commands? Sounds like a nifty idea -- until the manufacturer reminds you that your TV is listening to your private conversations too.
Samsung recently unveiled a new line of Internet-connected Smart TVs that can stream customized content and show recommendations. The TVs also allow users to control their set with voice commands.
But what many users may not realize is that the voice recognition system works by transmitting those voice commands to a third-party service that then converts the speech to text.
"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," the statement reads.
Users who didn't take the time to read through every booklet that came with the TV may have missed that fine print. But with several news outlets reporting on the odd warning, Samsung has since released a statement to insist that user information remains safe.
The company says it does not save any of the voice data or sell its information to third parties. The TV simply forwards the data to a server that notes the requested command and then returns the desired content to the TV.
The company has not divulged which third-party company the data is sent to, nor how it ensures that the information remains safe.
In a company statement, Samsung said it takes consumer privacy seriously and uses data encryption "to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use."
The company also notes that users can always deactivate the voice recognition service and use the text feature instead. Or they could simply disconnect the television from their Wi-Fi network altogether.
Security expert Bruce Schneier says these types of privacy concerns aren’t limited to Smart TVs.
“Whether it’s your TV listening to your voices or your cellphone knowing where you are, or your thermostat knowing who’s in the room, this kind of thing is the future,” Schneier told CTV’s News Channel on Monday.
Adding to the feelings of distrust, Schneier said, is that there is no way to know that these systems are 100-per-cent secure.
“They can be hacked,” he said. “We know again and again that there are vulnerabilities in the system and we’ve seen many times where criminals and government take advantage of this.”