If you own a SmartTV from Samsung that uses voice recognition to enable voice commands, then you should, by Samsung’s own admission, be very careful about what you say in front of your telly,
‘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.’
Although not confirmed, it is thought that the ‘third party’ mentioned is Nuance, a company which specializes in voice recognition, and which Samsung uses to bring their white label technology to its products.
EFF activist Parker Higgins has compared this invasion of privacy to the kind of Big Brother monitoring found in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Samsung has dismissed privacy concerns, pointing out that the ‘feature’ can be turned off, telling the Guardian that,
‘Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously. In all of our Smart TVs any data gathering or their use is carried out with utmost transparency and we provide meaningful options for consumers to freely choose or to opt out of a service. We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorised collection or use.
Voice recognition, which allows the user to control the TV using voice commands, is a Samsung Smart TV feature that can be activated or deactivated by the user. 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.’
Readers can make of that what they will, but as voice recognition technology becomes increasingly popular, the dangers of Big Brother style snooping become ever more pervasive…
Update 13 February 2015: Samsung Smart TV voice recognition features can be disabled using the Smart TV remote by pressing the menu button -> Settings -> Smart Features -> Select -> Voice Recognition -> (toggle to disable). Doing this will disable your ability to control your TV by voice, but we hear this often doesn’t work very well anyway!