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Samsung smart televisions sending private conversations to third parties

Samsung is warning consumers to watch what they say in front of their smart televisions.

Customers of Samsung who have purchased a smart television and use its voice activation feature may have their conversations sent to a third party.

The reason, Samsung explains, is that these smart televisions are constantly ‘listening’ to conversations in front of them in an attempt to decipher voice activated demands. It is possible that the television may send conversations it hears to Samsung or other third parties.

An excerpt from Samsung’s privacy policy for the net-controlled Smart TV explains that the television will listen to people in the same room for commands. Samsung says, “If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

Corynne McSherry, an intellectual property lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), says that the third-party is likely the company that provides the speech-to-text conversion for Samsung.

She said, “If I were the customer, I might like to know who that third party was, and I’d definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form.”

In response to the sharing of its policy statement, Samsung issued an explanation clarifying how its smart television voice activation feature works. They explain that the intention of their privacy policy is to be transparent with consumers in order to help them make better informed choices about using some of the features on their Smart TV sets, adding that they take consumer privacy “very seriously”.

Samsung says, “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.”

The added that they do not retain the data or sell the audio that is captured by their televisions and that consumers will always know if the voice activation feature is turned on because there is a visible microphone icon on the television screen when it’s in use.


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