Samsung Corporation, the world’s leading manufacturer of electronics is facing a very eerie predicament that too because of its own product doing the mischief.
No! This isn’t a customer complaint that has the company shuddering at the possibilities of how discerning technology, it is one of their products; the SMART TV that is eavesdropping on your conversations. Almost all of them! Samsung is currently warning its customers not to discuss their personal information in front of their smart television set since it apparently hears everything due to its voice activation features. All TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV with its voice activation features are at potential risk of privacy infringement that too by a mere television set!
What it actually does?
Apparently these SMART TV sets “listen” to what is said in front of them to analyse data and may share details with Samsung as part of customer improvement programs; what people like ‘to see’. The warning was issued when a news story was released in an online news magazine called the Daily Beast, which published excerpts of Samsung’s privacy policies for its internet-connected Smart TV sets that can possibly do anything a personal computer or a mobile phone can.
The policy outlines that the TV set will listen to people’s words to try and judge which specific commands or queries are issued via the remote when voice activated. It also clearly states ‘If your spoken words include personal or sensitive information, that information will be among the data that is captured and transmitted to a third party.’ The third-party handling the translation techniques from speech to text has yet not been named for anonymity.
Samsung has clarified that it does not retain any voice data or sell the audio that is being captured. The Smart-TV owners will always be notified if voice activation is turned on by a ‘microphone icon’ on the TV screen.
Concerns Regarding This Development
This declaration, however arouses many questions regarding customer privacy.
- Imagine if you’re saying sweet nothings to your loved one or having a rebellious fight with someone at home; that is your personal matter, you would not want the world to know about it, would you?
- Hackers can easily break past security firewalls and be on the lookout for very confidential discussions, such as business policy, passwords, PIN number etc.
- What the future entails for individual privacy? Is this a trend of what the future may see? Gadgets listening to us and transmitting them to others!
What are the possible workarounds for this issue?
As a customer, you have every right to know who gets your information and who gets to retain it. Also the matter of multi-layered security comes into the fray; is the data transmitted securely or not?
Activists for the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) have circulated the policy statement by Samsung on Twitter. In response to the widespread agitations, Samsung has clarified how voice activation really works; it states that voice recognition is activated only using the TV’s remote control; at the beck and call of the TV user.
Samsung is currently the second smart TV maker to have run into problems with the data their TV set collects; in 2013, an IT consultant from UK found out that his LG TV was suspiciously gathering various information about his TV viewing habits. Widespread publicity and activism on the serious issue led LG Corp. to launch a software update for the TV which ensured that this feature was turned off for people who did not want to share their private information.