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Samsung explains why its SmartTV records private conversations (+video)

According to its privacy policy agreement, when the owner of Samsung's Smart TV has voice controls activated, the device will record private conversations and may send them to third parties.

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Kim Hyun-seok, head of Samsung Electronics' TV division, poses for photographs with a Samsung Electronics S'UHD smart TV during its launch event in Seoul

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Owners of Samsung’s SmartTV beware: the Internet-connected television uses its voice recognition feature to record surrounding conversations and to send that data to third parties.

As The Daily Beast first reported on Thursday, Samsung’s privacy policy for the SmartTV states:

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"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."

The SmartTV lets owners use voice command to do things such as change the channel, but this revelation may inspire users to pick up their remotes.

In a statement released to The Daily Beast after the article's initial publication, Samsung said it takes consumer privacy “very seriously” and that it uses safeguards such as data-encryption to protect personal information and “prevent unauthorized collection or use." The company also stated that the voice commands can be disabled and the TV can be disconnected from the Internet. So, in other words, if you have privacy concerns, make sure the TV is not online.

As the policy goes on to state, the information is provided to “a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you.”

Samsung has not said that it or any other company will use this information to harvest personal data. However, as Facebook and other social media companies have demonstrated, consumer information is a valuable and coveted commodity.

LG came under fire in 2013 for the way it used customer data, which led to an investigation by the United Kingdom’s information commissioner’s office over whether the company was mining data without proper consent. Blogger Jason Huntly revealed LG’s smart TV was collecting consumer information including viewing history and files stored on USB drives attached to the television, even when the “Collection of watching info” setting was turned to “off.”

Not that LG and Samsung are special cases when it comes to the collection of personal information. Company after company after company have used data mining to bring more direct advertising to consumers and even pass along the information to governments, when required by law. And with recent hacking scandals, it draws into question if these companies have the resources to protect the sensitive information they collect.

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As the Internet of Things becomes an ever-increasing reality, people will wrestle with the intersection of new technology and privacy.


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