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Samsung smart TVs in spying shocker: Voice recognition does what it’s supposed to

Is your Samsung smart TV spying on you? Korean connected telly maker Samsung has been embroiled in a micro-scandal for allegedly failing to protect the privacy of its customers. 

Samsung smart TV sets like the £850-ish UE50H6400 feature voice controls that let you change the channel, search for new TV shows and browse the interface without having to use that clunky old remote. 

But much like voice controls on phones, smart TV voice-activated commands are a little rusty. In our experience, voice activated controls don’t respond that well and most of the time it’s simply been easier for us to reach for the good old-fashioned remote control. 

Like any manufacturer worth its salt, Samsung isn’t content to let the situation stand as it is and so it’s constantly striving to improve its voice recognition software.

As the privacy policy on Samsung’s site states: 

“If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. 

“In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features.”

If you don’t want your TV keeping tabs on you, turn off voice recognition 

In other words, Samsung is trying to recognise your voice in order for its software to improve and mould itself to the sound of your voice, in a similar in principle to how SwiftKey learns to mould itself to your typing habits. It’s called voice recognition for a reason. 

What’s perhaps the most concerning about this news is Samsung’s admission that its TVs could also record any stray thoughts uttered in between you sifting around for the latest episodes of Archer or House of Cards

“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’s not clear from this statement if Samsung’s TVs are constantly monitoring you while you’re watching content. If you are worried that you’re being spied on, the good news is that you can disable voice recognition in the settings and still control your TV using a number of pre-set voice commands. 

You should note that your smart TV also attempts to serve you recommendations based on your post code, information gleaned from the devices IP address, cookies as well as the programmes you watch. Again, you can turn this off in the settings if you don’t want Samsung to collect this kind of information. 

You can read Samsung’s privacy policy in full here

The TVs of the future will spy on your EMOTIONS

Last year Samsung’s Korean rival LG was rocked by a similar scandal. IT consultant Jason Huntley learned that his TV was still keeping tabs on him even after he’d opted out of the services that required data collection. LG eventually announced it’d plug the potentially privacy infringing loophole with a software update. 

So far, there’s no indication that opting out of Samsung’s recognition services will see the company continue to harvest personal information. 

If you’re worried about the capacity of future TV sets, look away now. Last year the Beeb revealed that its Worldwide arm had teamed up with face-recognising startup CrowdEmotion in a big to monitor viewers emotions. In just a few years, we could be buying TVs that let programme makers see how happy, sad, surprised (or plain not bothered) we are by the latest EastEnders arc. 


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