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Is Your Smart TV Eavesdropping?

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 by | Filed Under: Security Help, TV Tech

More and more devices are offering the option of voice recognition. This can be very convenient, especially for users with mobility issues or visual impairment, but TV manufacturer Samsung is warning customers to remember that someone is listening when they use voice recognition.

In the privacy policy for smart TVs, the company says, “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.” That much makes sense, the devices need to store your commands to become better at understanding what you want.


But these devices aren’t just listening to your commands, Samsung also cautions users to “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.”


That’s prompted comparisons to the George Orwell novel 1984 where Big Brother is listening, though in this case it doesn’t appear that the apps are listening in on you all the time, just that anything spoken while you are using the voice recognition function with the app can be heard by the app. It makes sense that an app isn’t going to be intelligent enough to sort out what you are saying to it and what you are directing to someone else in the room. Much like when someone is talking to you on the phone and talking to someone else at the same time.

Samsung insists it’s not trying to listen in on users and that it isn’t selling their recorded conversations to third-parties. It says the apps are designed only to hear certain commands, but there’s always the possibility that apps could pick up other spoken words, hence the need for the disclaimer. It’s true that all good voice recognition apps store your commands so they can learn your voice.

Now you’ll see privacy information like this when you enable any smart TV and the voice recognition can’t get turned on unless you agree to it. If you fail to agree to the terms, you may find that many of the functions of your smart TV won’t work.

~ Cynthia

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