George Orwell’s premonition has come true – the Googlebox is watching us! No, we do not mean the hit TV series whereby we watch members of the public watching TV – gawd elp us!! No reminiscent of the Telescreens in Orwell’s seminal novel, ‘1984’ reports are in that our televisions are actually listening to us!
Samsung are warning TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature that when the feature is active then your sets listen to what is said. This information is then shared by Samsung to third parties.
The wording, or rather the small print in their T&C’s was first spotted by the Daily Beast, and informs you that the company may “capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features.”
Further reading of the T&C’s reveal that things go a little deeper than that, and this is where things take an alarming turn: “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.”
Now granted I am not sure how much the nonsense I utter in front of my television will be worth to the powers on the open market, I am pretty sure there will not be many third parties queueing for my sometime rather flavoursome and savoury comments. Also I do not own a Samsung TV and as yet we have yet to hear of other televisions venturing down this route but even so on a serious note it is pretty worrying to think of this invasion of our privacy.
The author Chris Matyszczyk decided to contact Samsung to better understand their decision. What follows are extracts from his correspondence.
“Should consumers enable the voice recognition capability, the voice data consists of TV commands, or search sentences, only. Users can easily recognise if the voice recognition feature is activated because a microphone icon appears on the screen.”
“Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties. If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.”
“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.”
So I suppose the simple answer would be either we have to whisper within our homes or that we can simply disable the voice activation system form all Smart TVs but surely this added function is one of the reasons we pay extra for our modern day TVs? I am pretty sure that nobody purchased a television knowing that this trade off of selling our information would be part of the service.
And a few more thoughts if there is money to be made from our information why is it we are not privy to the cash?! And who are these third parties, surely we should be privy to them and is our information being sent securely?
Where this will end I am not sure but I suppose we made our digital beds so we have to lay in them.
Until next time.