The spy in your living room – Your smart TV may be more clever than you anticipated

As if there wasn’t enough surveillance to worry about, your Samsung Smart TV could have just joined the list of the CCTV cameras, your smartphone and basically any other device that can be used to hear what you are saying and see what you are doing.

Samsung TV Voice


In this case, it seems to be more about the former, the voice. No one really bothers to read through the privacy policies while setting up a new gadget or online account (it is a mix of laziness, inability to read the technical lingo thrown in and the very excitement of getting on and using the gadget/service).

The Daily Beast first spotted that Samsung’s Smart televisions are potentially listening to, and recording what you are saying to it. These Smart TVs are voice command enabled, letting users use speech instead of the physical remote to do certain tasks.

Samsung’s privacy policy for these devices has a rather worrying clause, which reads, “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.”

This raises two questions—who is the third-party that Samsung talks about and how is the data being shared with them?

In most likelihood, this data sharing would be to improve the features and the voice recognition capabilities. While voice commands have been available in connected TVs for a couple of years now, they are still in the stage of development. This third party in question, which is not named, would most likely be assisting Samsung in developing this particular feature, along with other tied-in features. But, is the data that is shared with them being encrypted? If not, the TV can basically be used to snoop in on your conversations real-time, by any of the two primary parties or even by external agencies. We aren’t saying that Samsung would be listening to what you are saying to the TV, but security agencies can plug in to the pipeline, for example, and could use this as a potential listening bug sitting pretty in your living room.

Till the time we get more clarity on how the voice commands feature is being managed, we would suggest keeping the conversation with the TV at a very basic level—channel change, source change and volume. Take your finger off that voice command button on the remote before pledging allegiance to your favorite terrorist group or how you siphoned off company funds for a project. The big brother may be listening. This weekly series talks about all things play—from real to virtual, stadiums to playstations, and football games to board games.