ICYMI: Samsung Warns Customers — Beware, Your Smart TV IS Spying On You!

Samsung not only confirmed that the voice recognition feature on its smart TVs was listening to all nearby conversations, it warned users to not discuss personal/sensitive information in front of their Smart TVs as it will be recorded, stored, and shared with Samsung as well as third-party services.

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Samsung

Smart TVs — televisions with integrated Internet and interactive on-demand streaming media that lets you watch your favorite shows, access your favorite apps, explore the Internet, and play your favorite games — have changed the way you get your daily doses of entertainment.

However, the Internet-connected Smart TVs are so smart that they can be hijacked through the TV’s built-in web browser. Smart TVs possess vulnerabilities that can be exploited to turn their cameras on and off, take over apps like Facebook and Skype, and damage/corrupt/modify important files. They are so vulnerable that, if connected to the Internet, Smart TVs offer cyber criminals an inevitable path for hackers to attack your home computers and steal/leak your sensitive information.

While you can protect your Smart TVs from hackers and ransomware, how do you deal with Smart TVs that are recording everything you say and sending it to a third party – with permission from the manufacturer?

In February 2015, Shane Harris, senior intelligence and national security correspondent at The Daily Beast, pointed out a shocking part in Samsung’s privacy policy:

“You can control your Smart TV, and use many of its features, with voice commands.

“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.”

After an activist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation circulated the policy statement on Twitter, comparing it to George Orwell’s description of the telescreens in his novel 1984 that listen to what people say in their homes, Samsung not only confirmed that the voice recognition feature on its smart TVs was listening to all nearby conversations, it warned users to not discuss personal/sensitive information in front of their Smart TVs , Samsung further said the reasoning being that it will be recorded, stored, and shared with Samsung as well as third-party services.


As expected, Samsung’s privacy policy sent the users into frenzy. Responding to the controversy, Samsung updated its privacy policy, and named its third party partner:

“You can control your Smart TV, and use many of its features, with voice commands.

“If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and 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. Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control.”

Still under pressure, Samsung issued the following statement to The Daily Beast:

“Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously. In all of our Smart TVs we employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use. Voice recognition, which allows the user to control the TV using voice commands, is a Samsung Smart TV feature, which can be activated or deactivated by the user. The TV owner can also disconnect the TV from the Wi-Fi network.”

SamsungIn a statement to Anti-Media, Nuance also clarified:

“Our use of speech data is for the development and improvement of our voice recognition and natural language understanding technologies. As outlined in our privacy policy, third parties work under contract with Nuance, pursuant to confidentiality agreements, to help Nuance tailor and deliver the speech recognition and natural language service, and to help Nuance develop, tune, enhance, and improve its products and services.”

Despite clearing the air, both Samsung and Nuance acknowledge they collect user’s voice commands “to improve the TV’s performance”; but, how do you know they are not sharing the sensitive consumer data with multinational corporations and government agencies?


This article (ICYMI: Samsung Warns Customers — Beware, Your Smart TV IS Spying On You!) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and AnonHQ.com.


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