Samsung's Smart TVs Share Living Room Conversations With Third Parties
It used to be that our personal gadgets waited for us to give them information through a keyboard or touch screen. Increasingly, they’re always on and “listening” for the commands we give them – ever noticed Google Now or Siri suddenly starting up on your smartphone because you inadvertently activated them?
The statement, first reported by The Daily Beast, says “Samsung may collect…. voice commands and associated texts” to improve the service. It adds that customers should 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 though your use of voice recognition.”
Customers can of course disable this feature by turning off voice recognition in the settings menu, but it appears you can’t turn off the third party contextual data collection without losing the handy voice recognition service altogether.
Who are these third parties? Samsung hasn’t answered that question specifically, but it looks like they primarily are involved with making the voice recognition better – ie. they’re not advertisers.
“Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties,” the company told The Guardian. “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, voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then return the desired content to the TV.”
This confirms the suspicious of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a major privacy advocate, that the data collection was mostly being used to improve the smart TVs’ voice feature.
But the organization would still prefer that Samsung say who it’s passing its customers’ conversations to, and whether it was doing so in an secure fashion.
If the voice data isn’t encrypted, that for instance could leave the door open to hackers spying on someone’s living room conversations.
The main third party collecting people’s voice data is probably Nuance, the world’s biggest voice recognition company, which also powers voice recognition in Apple’s Siri.
Nuance’s clients often don’t name Nuance as a partner under contractual obligation and it’s been up to Nuance to let slip that its Dragon voice technology was behind Siriand Samsung’s Smart TVs.