Your TV might be listening to you

Samsung’s smart TV has prompted some controversy over their voice control feature. When the feature is active, the TV set is continuously listening to what is said and may share this information to Samsung or third parties. The story came to the fore when news magazine, The Daily Beast, published a part of their privacy policy for its net connected Smart TVs.

The policy explains that the TV will be listening to what is being said in order to spot commands or queries. In addition, it goes on to state: “If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Privacy campaigners said the technology harks back to telescreens in George Orwell’s novel which spied on citizens. Jake Goldenfein from The University of Melbourne’s media and communications law faculty said, “When you’re dictating into a phone you know exactly what you’re doing, whereas with a television you might just be sitting around and chatting to your friends and you’re inadvertently activating this voice command technology which will start recording what you’re saying.”

In reply, Samsung stated that it did not retain or sell voice data being captured and users would always know whether voice activation was turned on because a microphone icon would be visible on screen. In 2013, LG ran into problems when it was found to be gathering information on consumer viewing habits. Of further concern can be the fact that Smart TVs also have a camera feature which looks out for hand controlled signals to perform certain commands. If the same policy is used for both voice and hand commands, then our private conversations may include a third party without us knowing.