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Some Smart TVs Reserve the Right to Record Your Private Conversations

Be careful what you say around your smart TV. If it’s equipped with a microphone, it could be recording and saving your private conversations.

Having a private conversation within the confines of your own home may become a thing of the past as voice-recognition technology becomes ever-more prevalent. The Takeaway writes on a disturbing note they found in Samsung’s terms of service relating to its smart TVs.

It reads:

“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.”

It sounds like a disclosure to wiretap someone’s home. What’s more, they write that trying to disable the technology may land you a felony charge under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prevents people from tampering. While privacy policies are about as clear as mud most of the time, buried between lines of jargon and legal terms are little tidbits that read as clear as day (like the one above). It’s just finding them is the hard part.

So, what’s a consumer to do? Unplug it from the internet is one option, but then you’re paying for a device that won’t carry out all the functions you’ve paid for. The next option is to “vote with your dollar” and not buy one. It’s your right as a consumer to decide what you want or don’t want to purchase. However, there’s the possibility that this technology will become our future. While Samsung does admit that they “take consumer privacy very seriously,” that doesn’t mean some people can’t get a hold of your private conversations. What people say in the privacy of their own home to this machine isn’t protected by the Constitution, because you’re releasing that information into the hands of a third party. The government and law enforcement officials need only hand Samsung a subpoena — not a warrant — in order to access what conversations have taken place while watching TV.

In this instance, it’s impossible not to draw lines to George Orwell’s 1984. There’s a particular scene that involves just such a smart TV installed in every resident’s home, and it can never be turned off — it’s always listening, watching.

“Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork.”

Consumers have been continually sacrificing much of their information as a trade-off for convenience, using services that collect, store, and sell their data. But even after the Edward Snowden revelations, there has been little change in our personal habits to try and protect our privacy. There has been a slight uptick in the use of Tor and more talk about alternative search engines, like DuckDuckGo and StartPage. But these numbers are few. So, when does the collective mindset change on these invasive products?

Read more at The Takeaway.

Photo Credit: Isengardt/Flickr


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