Samsung Smart TVs are amazing huh? With voice commands and video calling built in, it’s like we’re in the 2015 predicted by Back to the Future II. No wonder families are buying them in the tens of millions, making Samsung the global leader in smart TV sales.
All those families. All those smart TVs, with cameras and microphones capable of sending your private conversations and images across the Internet. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, here’s what Samsung itself is warning you could go wrong (until it hastily changed its privacy statement):
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.
Yikes! To be fair to Samsung, there have been a lot of recent controversies about smart devices that secretly spy on you, from Microsoft’s Kinect to iPhone’s Siri digital assistant. But Samsung is perhaps the first company to openly admit that it could capture and transmit your personal and sensitive information.
Hey, they may be spying on you — but at least they’re honest about it. 😅
Why You Can’t Trust Your Smart TV’s Voice Recognition
Of course, if you’re going to build a mass-surveillance device, a television set is the perfect place to hide it.
Most Samsung Smart TVs will be used in the living room, where you have your most unguarded conversations with family members and friends. Talking about plans for the future, sharing secrets, discussing relationships and money — it all happens around the TV at home.
— Parker Higgins (@xor) February 8, 2015
The problem is that by default, your Samsung Smart TV is always listening to those conversations. Its microphone needs to stay on so it can hear and respond to your voice commands. For some reason — probably to do with R&D — Samsung Smart TVs also transmit some recorded audio across the Internet to third parties. That could include personal things you talk about.
Samsung’s defenders say this is unlikely to happen, because the TV only starts recording if you start your sentence with a recognized command, such as, “Hi, TV.” But given how incredibly temperamental voice recognition technology can be you can’t trust that your Smart TV will only start recording when it hears “Hi, TV.”
What about when it hears “Hi, Stevie” or “Bye, Evie”?
Voice recognition just isn’t reliable enough to trust. And the truth is, it could start recording and transmitting your voice in lots of scenarios.
Stand Up To Your Samsung Smart TV
Thankfully there’s a way to switch off voice recognition on your Samsung Smart TV — and you need to know about it.
The method differs between models, so check your TV’s manual or the Samsung website for instructions. Some even require you to check a box saying you disagree with its privacy terms.
Switching off the microphone protects your privacy — but it also kind of defeats the object of having a smart TV, doesn’t it? It’s a shame there aren’t yet smart devices that respect your privacy, while also giving you cool features.
But until device makers wise up, it’s probably better to live without voice recognition than have your TV spying on you 24/7.
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