Samsung SmartTVs Are Spying On You

Samsung SmartTVs Are Spying On You

According to Samsung's SmartTV privacy policy, any careless conversation near your TV could be sent to various third parties.

Let's say you own a Samsung SmartTV, which you used to watch last night's The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul premieres. Since you're in the privacy of your own home, you have no problem flying into profanity-laden tirades about which beloved characters died this season, correct? One problem: If your voice commands are turned on your conversation isn't as private as you think. Any voice data collected by the TV, including potentially personal or sensitive information, can be captured and transmitted to a third party.

This information comes from Samsung SmartTV's very own privacy policy. As part of improving its voice recognition features, the SmartTV captures voice commands and transmits them to a service working to improve its functionality. Sounds innocent enough at first, but the wording implies the SmartTV can - and probably will - pick up any conversations within the room.

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.

To be fair, voice recognition data collection can be disabled from the SmartTV's settings menu. Samsung warns, however, that doing so "may prevent you from using all of the Voice Recognition features".

Privacy concerns surrounding living room entertainment will likely continue to rise - that was a major criticism of the Xbox Kinect which reportedly stored webcam and chat traffic on government databases. Now we don't even need a peripheral for televisions to snag personal data. I suppose that's progress.

Source: Daily Beast, via PCMag

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Hello 1984 telescreens, how are you?

I hope they plaster this warning all over it in big huge print (which I know they wont)

I understand why they are doing it this way, but keeping it tucked away in T&Cs is just so wrong.
Be upfront with this crap.

Stick one in every motel and we'll be catching serial rapists left right and center. Obviously the primary reaction to this will be [i]"OMG MA PRIVACY!!11" and while this sort of reaction isn't wrong, I'm not personally worried if someone in an office on the other side of the world hears my potentially unpopular opinions or mildly embarrassing secrets. Then again maybe I just have nothing serious to hide.

Tatsuki:
I hope they plaster this warning all over it in big huge print (which I know they wont)

I expect a Xbone style climb down when people react in exactly the same manner, because everyone likes having a permanent sound recorder in their living room.

Even better for Targeted Ad Tracking Media!!!

Fucking bullshit ads

Aaand here's the part where they say "It won't operate properly without it!" before some guy proves them wrong, just like with the X-Bone and the Kinect. Hah hah hah...irony.

Aaaaand it already says there: "third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you", there's your third party service...
By these definitions, all webcams, microphones, keyboards, mice, websites, apps, computer programs etc. are "spying" on you. Samsung has no interest in gathering voice data, unless it's to improve their voice recognition services. AFAIK they are not in the advertising business, and certainly not in the "random sound mumbles"-selling business.

The last time I looked at targeted advertising, you don't buy specific data on specific people (which isn't interesting, except for government funded stalkers). What advertisers sell you is access to certain demographics that match your query.
For instance:
I wish to promote my new energy drink brand, Facebook offers me to display ads for my energy drink to a certain demographics, notably sporty people aged 15-35 who might like other brands as well, situated in the US. Facebook then offers to show these ads to that certain demographic of about 1.5 millions (making up numbers), and that's it. OR maybe I wish to know how well is my energy drink received among people, or if there even is a market for it.
These are things you could obtain information about. You don't buy personal information about individuals though, and that is certainly not a business Samsung is interested in being a part of.

Either way, voice commands on my Smart TV has been disabled since day 1, simply because it worked like a piece of crap.

FalloutJack:
Aaand here's the part where they say "It won't operate properly without it!" before some guy proves them wrong, just like with the X-Bone and the Kinect. Hah hah hah...irony.

Obviously voice control doesn't work when you disable it... The TV itself works like normal.

harrisonmcgiggins:
Even better for Targeted Ad Tracking Media!!!

Fucking bullshit ads

Except there's not really any ads to use any data on. Yeah, there's sometimes a promoted app on the App Screen in the upper right corner, a static image displaying the latest show on Netflix or HBO. Most of the time it's just a static image telling you to check out the App selection, and when there are "ads" for anything, it's a random app. It's never "HEY YOU THERE, WE OVERHEARD YOU TALKING ABOUT MOUNTAIN DEW, HERE LEMME PLAY AN AD FOR YOU ABOUT MOUNTAIN DEW RIGHT IN YOUR FACE".

NLS:

FalloutJack:
Aaand here's the part where they say "It won't operate properly without it!" before some guy proves them wrong, just like with the X-Bone and the Kinect. Hah hah hah...irony.

Obviously voice control doesn't work when you disable it... The TV itself works like normal.

I believe you misread the OP. Samsung isn't saying that voice control doesn't work if you turn off voice control. That would be a stupid and unnecessary thing to say. They're saying that voice control may not function properly if you turn off data collection.

It should be illegal, but most consumers aren't smart enough to care. It kills me that every advancement towards the future has a side of it built so companies or government can spy on you and fuck with you for money.

If you have to get one of these things, I suppose you can put tape over the camera and use a small tool to destroy the mic.

Turns out LG will disable all network features on your TV if you don't let them spy on you. Expect Samsung to take a similar route.

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140511/17430627199/lg-will-take-smart-out-your-smart-tv-if-you-dont-agree-to-share-your-viewing-search-data-with-third-parties.shtml

Because I will not agree to LG's Privacy Policy, I can now no longer access/use any of of the TV's network based programs: Iplayer, Skype, 3D etc.

As of the 7th May following a software update to our less than two year old LG TV. I was confronted with a message asking me to read and agree with a couple of important new documents. So like a good little citizen I read and agreed with the first doc regarding use of said TV. but having read the Privacy Doc I was not best pleased with the companies assumption that I would simply agree to their sharing all our intimate viewing details (plus what ever else they can see)with all and sundry.

Since I agreed not to hack into installed software (as if I Could)We cannot get around the block.

I think the company must be in breach of contract since the smart functions are no longer available. Surely in the uk at least you should not be able to change the goal posts at will. Any one sorted this problem yet??

Before some smart alec says "Take It back". We bought the set because it satisfied our criteria at the time. We did not expect some legal bully to come along nearly two years later and tell us to share all our information with the world OR ELSE??

I don't own one of these TV's but I do have a question for anyone who does own one. Does it always record?

For example, I have the Amazon Echo which does essentially the same thing. It has voice controls and Amazon records whatever thing I ask it in order to make it better understand my voice when I ask it questions later on. But, it only records after I say the wake word, its not always recording. It just does it after I ask it to listen, essentially.

So do their TV's have the same functionality, IE it only records after the wake word, or can it be controlled without it. If thats the case I think people are freaking out for no reason. Unless of course they use the wake word and then immediately start spitting out personal information for no reason at all.

crimson5pheonix:
Hello 1984 telescreens, how are you?

funny, that's exactly what I was thinking when I saw this article.

If nothing else, this gives me something to put on a list if things to never, ever buy.

No way am I letting anything Big Brother-related into my house, that would be doubleplus ungood.

This seems like kind of a given though, right? Modern voice recognition requires your devices to send your speech to external companies (or, best case scenario, the same company's servers a la Google). It's non-private by definition.

I have to admit I don't know exactly how these TVs work, but assuming the voice recognition is always active should you have it enabled (having to activate it when you want to give a command would sort of defeat the point of using voice), all your conversations are being uploaded to Samsung's voice recognition partner 24/7 anyway. If you're (rightly) concerned about that, why are you using voice in the first place?

The stories about LG locking out services to people who disable this stuff are pretty scary, but Samsung's approach sounds more like a necessary risk of using the feature.

The absolute worst thing about this..?

People will buy it..and similar products..Where has this apathy come from?

NLS:
Boop

The joke was 'the whole television'.

You just made me explain the joke.

Shame on you!

FalloutJack:

NLS:
Boop

The joke was 'the whole television'.

You just made me explain the joke.

Shame on you!

Shaaaaaaammme!

Anyhow, ten points to Big Broth-- I mean, America.

Err, hello? This has been going on for a while now. Don't buy 'smart' TVs.

November 2013 coming to visit, I'll just leave this here.

What point of "there are some parts of my life which I don't want some finicky corporation tracking, storing, and using." do these companies not yet get? I think it's the period, because it makes those concepts definitive. Where is the wiggle room?

Never the less it doesn't seem to stop this technology from growing in this way. And I think there is a clear line between facebook tracking data you voluntarily input into their service, and a device that sneaks in a "BTW you on candid camera b*tch" on page 95 of their 240 page ULA and sits in your living room unassumingly.

I donno, I don't think of myself as a privacy nut, but these stories feel wrong some how.

NLS:
Aaaaand it already says there: "third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you", there's your third party service...
By these definitions, all webcams, microphones, keyboards, mice, websites, apps, computer programs etc. are "spying" on you. Samsung has no interest in gathering voice data, unless it's to improve their voice recognition services. AFAIK they are not in the advertising business, and certainly not in the "random sound mumbles"-selling business.

actually most webcams use first party software and so do keyboards, and mice. mirophones usually rely on the sound card drivers so this is third party for most cases.

websites are utterly infested with third party spies. This page i am typing a response to is interconnected to 24 (twenty-four) other websites thanks to escapists wide use of "Cram as many scripts as you can to track your users" policy.

Majority of computer programs are local and does not use any external service.

Kameburger:
What point of "there are some parts of my life which I don't want some finicky corporation tracking, storing, and using." do these companies not yet get? I think it's the period, because it makes those concepts definitive.

Hahaha, did you ever though these companies cared for even a second about what you want? they only care about what they want and nothing more.

QuadFish:
This seems like kind of a given though, right? Modern voice recognition requires your devices to send your speech to external companies (or, best case scenario, the same company's servers a la Google). It's non-private by definition.

if your voice recognition software is sane it will do recognition locally. conencting to other service to do that is just a very very stupid way of doing it.

Yeah, I see a lot of services do this.

Microsoft is constantly prompting me to 'send them anonymous usage data'. Google is the same. (Hello google voice... XD), etc, and so on.

At this point I wonder sometimes what ISN'T spying on me in some way...

Strazdas:

NLS:

[quote="QuadFish" post="7.870360.21805857"]This seems like kind of a given though, right? Modern voice recognition requires your devices to send your speech to external companies (or, best case scenario, the same company's servers a la Google). It's non-private by definition.

if your voice recognition software is sane it will do recognition locally. conencting to other service to do that is just a very very stupid way of doing it.

Except it's not sane at all a lot of the time. I know for a fact my tablet only seems to do voice recognition while I have an internet connection, and it's spelled out somewhere that the processing is often done on a remote server.

That's not to say it can't be done locally, but clearly, some companies use web-services to do it.

Presumably arguing that the servers have way more processing power to throw at it than the device doing the recognition has. Which is probably quite true for phones and tablets, but still means you are transmitting voice data over the internet and having it processed on a server.

When you think about it this would make a near ideal spying service in some ways, because not only do you have voice samples of people, you have a service, which by it's very nature can provide easily searchable text transcripts of what the people in these samples are saying to one another...
(Error prone maybe, but it would allow you to quickly find people talking about a certain subject, and then check the voice samples themselves to see if there are transcription errors...)

CrystalShadow:

Except it's not sane at all a lot of the time. I know for a fact my tablet only seems to do voice recognition while I have an internet connection, and it's spelled out somewhere that the processing is often done on a remote server.

That's not to say it can't be done locally, but clearly, some companies use web-services to do it.

Presumably arguing that the servers have way more processing power to throw at it than the device doing the recognition has. Which is probably quite true for phones and tablets, but still means you are transmitting voice data over the internet and having it processed on a server.

When you think about it this would make a near ideal spying service in some ways, because not only do you have voice samples of people, you have a service, which by it's very nature can provide easily searchable text transcripts of what the people in these samples are saying to one another...
(Error prone maybe, but it would allow you to quickly find people talking about a certain subject, and then check the voice samples themselves to see if there are transcription errors...)

Once again, sane and companies doing it is not the same thing. Your tablet is doing it because the owner of the app (guessing google?) wants to track what you are recognizing to track you and sell that data. for this reason they do not allow local processing.

companies use web-services because they have a vested interest in you sending data to them.

Strazdas:

CrystalShadow:

Except it's not sane at all a lot of the time. I know for a fact my tablet only seems to do voice recognition while I have an internet connection, and it's spelled out somewhere that the processing is often done on a remote server.

That's not to say it can't be done locally, but clearly, some companies use web-services to do it.

Presumably arguing that the servers have way more processing power to throw at it than the device doing the recognition has. Which is probably quite true for phones and tablets, but still means you are transmitting voice data over the internet and having it processed on a server.

When you think about it this would make a near ideal spying service in some ways, because not only do you have voice samples of people, you have a service, which by it's very nature can provide easily searchable text transcripts of what the people in these samples are saying to one another...
(Error prone maybe, but it would allow you to quickly find people talking about a certain subject, and then check the voice samples themselves to see if there are transcription errors...)

Once again, sane and companies doing it is not the same thing. Your tablet is doing it because the owner of the app (guessing google?) wants to track what you are recognizing to track you and sell that data. for this reason they do not allow local processing.

companies use web-services because they have a vested interest in you sending data to them.

That's a bit redundant though, as a concept. Since a lot of these voice features are searches of sorts, you get close to the same result from doing the voice recognition on the device itself and passing the result to a server.

Actually processing the voice stuff on the server makes little sense from an advertising perspective when you are mostly dealing with search related functionality anyway...

Good, another reason not to buy Samsung TVs. I already gave up on them on account of the delay between picture and audio that was a common, and repeated, problem with their larger models. So nothing lost, but a bit of justification definitely gained.

I was thinking about replacing my TV. Not with one of those pieces of shit, but I very fleetingly considered it before foreseeing something as equally scummy as this.

It's sad, really. And the truth is most won't care.

http://www.sammobile.com/2015/02/10/samsung-edits-privacy-policy-reiterates-that-smart-tvs-are-not-listening-in-on-your-conversations/

This article explains how this stuff works, assuming that all of it is true then theres no need to worry, you paranoid bastards.

kasperbbs:
http://www.sammobile.com/2015/02/10/samsung-edits-privacy-policy-reiterates-that-smart-tvs-are-not-listening-in-on-your-conversations/

This article explains how this stuff works, assuming that all of it is true then theres no need to worry, you paranoid bastards.

Hush and put on a tinfoil hat or they'll spot you as sane...

I own a Samsung SmartTV series 8, and I turned the voice feature off from the get-go.

It wouldn't bother me at all if they were listening in, they wouldn't get much from my house hold.

"Psst! What are they saying?"

"Um, commercials suck, what's for dinner, and now they're fighting over who made a mess and who's going to clean the dishes tonight"

Other than that you need to be really clear with your voice when it comes to voice commands, kinda like a really bad uncover cop.

"So uh, you got the stuff?"

"YES, I HAVE THE, CO-CAINE, RIGHT HERE, FOR YOU, TO BUY, FROM ME, MR DRUG DEALER"

If you don't speak up, the tv just doesn't comprehend.

Wait... You deliberately put an always-on camera and microphone in your living room... and you expect it to NOT spy on you...

Maybe use a little common sense in your next TV purchase...

CrystalShadow:

That's a bit redundant though, as a concept. Since a lot of these voice features are searches of sorts, you get close to the same result from doing the voice recognition on the device itself and passing the result to a server.

Actually processing the voice stuff on the server makes little sense from an advertising perspective when you are mostly dealing with search related functionality anyway...

when you deal with search related functions - yes. but that is not all that voice recognition is being used for. for example i know people that use voice recognition to write in word or compose emails.

 

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