Samsung’s Smart TV is listening to your personal comments


Korean tech giants Samsung have warned that their smart televisions could be retaining customers’ personal conversations. The TV’s involved all feature a voice activation device, whereby the television sets are controlled by voice commands.

When the feature is activated, it listens to all of the conversation discussed in order to pick out commands, but this includes personal information that then may be shared with third parties.

The worrying discovery came to light from an article in the Daily Beast, who cleverly picked up on a deeply buried sentence in Samsung’s T&Cs. The sentence was hidden in the privacy policy and reads:

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.”

In the policy it explained that all conversation will be recorded by the TV set as it attempts to spot commands or questions, but experts are worried that sensitive information may also be captured. Not only that, but it is not known whether Samsung are the ones that are converting the speech-to-text, or if they are passing the data onto a third party.

Some experts believe that this sensitive data is being given to a third party, and this is where the problems start. Corynne McSherry, who works as an intellectual property lawyer for Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a company that campaigns on digital rights issues, spoke to the Daily Beast. She thinks that a third party is providing the conversion for Samsung, and also believes that the consumer has a right to know who that the third party is:

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.”


The policy statement has been widely circulated on Twitter, and caused a storm of angry tweets from people who compared it to a passage in George Orwell’s 1984, in which every move and sound Winston made was picked up by the telescreens in his house.

As a direct response to the feedback from the policy sharing on Twitter, Samsung has issued a statement in which they clarify exactly how the voice activation works.

Samsung reiterated that their privacy policy was to make sure customers were fully aware of the implications of using voice activation. It was their attempt to be transparent with their TV set owners, so that they could make informed choices about whether they wanted to use the features on its Smart TV sets.

Samsung said that it took consumer privacy “very seriously”, adding that: “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.”

It reassured customers that and voice data captured was not retained or sold, and customers would always know if the feature was turned on by the microphone icon on the screen.

Finally it revealed the third party converting the data was Nuance, which are specialists in this field.

Source: Daily Beast