Hush, your Samsung Smart TV might be eavesdropping

JC Torres - Feb 8, 2015
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Hush, your Samsung Smart TV might be eavesdropping

Smart TVs are smart, no doubt about that, but their smartness might come at a price. A review of Samsung‘s privacy policy, which, like many other such policies, are dense and full of legal gibberish, reveals that the Koeran manufacturer’s intelligent entertainment displays transmit even spoken words to a third party. This means that everything you say to that fancy voice control feature is fair game to Samsung, that still unnamed third party, and potential hackers, whether you’re telling the TV to switch channels or accidentally revealing details about certain undesirable family members.

The relevant part of Samsung’s policy reads thus:

“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”

Samsung doesn’t say so, but the usual rationale for this kind of communication is to help improve the service. That’s really nothing new as voice-controlled assistants such as Google Now and Siri practically do the same. The issue with Samsung’s way, however, is two-fold. The first is that Samsung has yet to identify who that third party is. The ambiguous wording implies that the OEM outsources the task, something that Google and Apple presumably keep in house. But that’s only a guess, as Samsung never really clarifies things and the presence of a third party is rather murky legal and privacy waters.

The second is one of security. The policy doesn’t explicitly state the use of encryption to safeguard the privacy of what gets transmitted over the line. Part of what the Smart TV communicates is a unique ID that identifies the device among hundreds of other devices. If hackers ever got access to these kind of data, the Smart TVs can very well be transformed into juicy eavesdropping stations.

That said, Samsung later made a statement clarifying that it uses security best practices to protect user data, including encrypting them. Amusingly, it also has this to say about the matter.

“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.”

While that does “solve”, or rather work around, the issue at hand, it also removes one or two features that make buying a Smart TV worth buying in the first place.

VIA: The Daily Beast


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