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Are Samsung’s TVs eavesdropping on you?

Samsung’s smart TV

Samsung is at the centre of a privacy storm in a teacup after the terms and conditions for its smart TVs suggested they were listening in on their owners. Privacy groups accused Samsung of creating an Orwellian nightmare,after learning that the TVs’ privacy policy implied the company could tap private conversations.

Samsung’s smart TV

“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’s policy warns. “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 prompted privacy activist Parker Higgins from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to compare Samsung’s TVs to the tele screens in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four,which fed personal information to the Thought Police.

So is Samsung secretly relaying conversations to MI5? The TV may be listening for the trigger word that activates voice recognition, but only then does it start analyzing what’s being said. As Samsung points out in its statement, “Should consumers enable the voice recognition capability,the voice data consists of TV commands or search sentences only.Users can easily recognize if the voice recognition feature is activated because a microphone icon appears on the screen.”

So as long as you don’t suddenly reveal your state secrets while telling the TV to switch over to Loose Women , it seems unlikely that your privacy’s in any grave danger.Voice data is encrypted too, so even wire-tapping spooks are unable to intercept snippets sent to Samsung.

The policy is almost certainly legal backside covering, pointing out that if you happen to gabble personal information at your TV with voice recognition activated, it may well hear it. The same applies to Apple’s Siri, Google Now,Microsoft’s Cortana or any other voice recognition service that relies on cloud-based transcription. In short, it’s more likely that you’re watching Big Brother than Big Brother is watching you.

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