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Should we care that Samsung Smart TVs are 'listening' to us?

Big Brother already knew you watched Netflix

by Mark Hodgkinson Feb 9, 2015

  • Home AV News


    Should we care that Samsung Smart TVs are 'listening' to us?
    There’s been a bit of a brouhaha building over concerns regarding Samsung Smart TVs over the last couple of days but it’s nothing new really.
    The outcry has been over the fact that that Samsung has revealed they may share any voice recordings made using their Smart remote controllers, with a third party, but is it really anything to worry about?

    Well our short answer would be ‘no.’ We have been testing Samsung Smart TVs for years and the recent advancements in voice commands and search technology have been excellent. You can use them to switch channels, control volume, change input and search the internet for just about anything, and it all works incredibly well, even with regional accents. And how was that achieved? By analysing thousands upon thousands of voices to tailor the software to make it work effectively. Samsung uses a third party provider for the voice features so it’s reasonable to assume that some of the data is being fed to them to help them improve it.

    We can understand that some might feel this infringes on personal privacy but, in reality, what will you be sharing? ‘Launch Netflix’, ‘Channel Up’, ‘Volume Down’ etc will likely be the extent of your vocal interaction with the TV and it only records when the microphone is activated. In other words, it’s not sat there listening in the background – a clear red microphone symbol is displayed on the TV so, if you’re worried, don’t go blurting out your personal details when it is. Not that we could think of any instance when that is likely to happen.

    In response to the storm, Samsung issued a statement to allay fears:

    “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."

    Samsung added that it did not store the voice data and nor is it sold on to advertisers but if you’re worried about this, you’re probably best getting off the internet right now and go hide behind your couch because you have much bigger privacy concerns than this.

    Or have I got this totally wrong and is it, in fact, some dreadful Orwellian invasion in to the living room?

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