Talking tech since 2003

Samsung has grand plans for its upcoming line of SmartTV sets – specifically, they’ll be equipped to respond to voice commands and provide you with on-demand content. However, as was the case with the Xbox Kinect a few years ago, Samsung’s SmartTV might be a bit too smart for some consumers’ liking – the Internet is currently freaking out over the fact that the televisions can and will monitor what you say and feed that to third parties.

The story got its start a few days ago on the Daily Beast, with the understated headline “Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically.” There, the post offers readers Samsung’s privacy policy regarding the SmartTV’s voice command capabilities:

“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.”

What that sounds like when taken at face value is that your television is always listening to what you say, just waiting to give you the channel you want – and then beam your weekend plans to advertisers all over the area so they can know every detail of your lives.

The truth, however, is far more mundane. A post on CNET provides a response from Samsung on the subject, and here we see just what kind of data we’re talking about, and who those third parties really are:

“Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties. 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, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.”

That’s right – the third party is basically an app or service that gives you content. It’s not some dude listening in on your living room chats. In essence, it’s one robot talking to another robot, and the second robot giving the first robot that episode of Game of Thrones you wanted to watch. That’s it. No one cares about what you’re saying. Just like the Kinect was never spying on people and feeding video back to Microsoft employee’s private hard drives. The same is true of Samsung’s truly dumb SmartTVs.

Moreover, let’s keep something else in mind: most of the writers saying that Samsung is spying on customers? They probably use Google or Gmail – free services that literally store everything you say or are said to you, and then turns around and tailors advertising (from third parties) to you. So if your friend writes to you about new speakers she got, you might see speaker advertisements pop up on your web browser.

Overall, there are no shortage of mindless technological processes that are listening to you, watching you, reading your emails and texts – MONITORING YOUR EVERY MOVE – but none of them actually care at all. Feel free to say whatever you want in front of your Samsung SmartTV. I assure you that the Netflix app that hears your conversation won’t know what to do with that information.

Even still, it should go without saying that if you put an Internet-connected device with a microphone in your home, there’s always a chance that someone, somewhere, could figure out how to gain access. But the reality is that even though it can happen still doesn’t make it even remotely likely that it will. And it’s certainly doubtful that Samsung or any of its app partners will devote one nanosecond of attention on anything you said.

[Sources: The Daily Beast, CNET]

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