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Samsung Spying on Living Rooms Hurts Smart TV Brand Image
Gross Privacy Violations
Samsung Spying on Living Rooms Hurts Smart TV Brand Image
  • By Matthew Weigand
  • February 9, 2015, 07:11
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The tweet by Parker Higgins compares two passages. Samsung's privacy policy is on the left, and the book 1984 is on the right.
The tweet by Parker Higgins compares two passages. Samsung's privacy policy is on the left, and the book 1984 is on the right.

 

U.S.-based tech media outlets like The Daily Beast, Techcrunch, and Gizmodo are all buzzing about Samsung TVs, but not in the good way. This time they are talking about “spying,” “creepy eavesdropping,” and “1984.”

The story was first published by The Daily Beast last Thursday, local time, when they ran an article titled “Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying On You, Bascially.” The article points out a sentence that was discovered in Samsung's latest privacy policy for its SmartTVs, which is freely available online. The sentence comes at the end of a paragraph about voice commands (emphasis added):

“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.” 

The Daily Beast brought up the possibility that the policy is just legal wiggle-room for the company, but the subsequent freak-out by the rest of the Internet has not been positive.

A tweet by Parker Higgins that has been shared 12 thousand times so far compares the Samsung privacy policy warning sentence to a passage from the book 1984. The passage from the book reads, “Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork.” The book 1984 is widely seen as a handbook for totalitarianism.

Techcrunch called Samsung's new SmartTV policy "creepy" while also speaking about the Amazon Echo, another device that listens to spoken commands. The article congratulated Samsung for its honesty by saying, “Creepy, tech-fueled privacy intrusions are rarely detailed as clearly as that. So full marks to Samsung for clarity.”

Gizmodo's article on the subject, “Samsung's SmartTV Privacy Policy Raises Accusations of Digital Spying,” also speaks about the tweet and the Daily Beast article, and concludes that “...digital spying only adds to the already existing list of reasons why smart TVs really should die off like any other television fad.”

The popularity of Samsung SmartTVs will most likely take a hit unless there is a change in policy.