Privacy Scare Getting Clarification

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The hubbub began with a close look at Samsung’s policy. which states: “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.” Now Samsung’s customers are getting clarification regarding their policy to alleviate the fear of intimate conversations being recorded in the privacy of one’s own home.

As stated, the policy appeared to reveal that Samsung expected customers to monitor what they discussed while sitting in their own home watching television. The vague wording contained in Samsung’s policy,  coupled with a lack of understanding about how the feature worked, caused potential customers to fear an invasion of their privacy.

If Samsung customers believed their television sets were being used to secretly recording their private conversations, they were unfortunately mislead. In fact, using search online is more of a concern than having personal discussions secretly recorded by a TV set.

The policy has now been clarified and the following language is an excerpt from the updated privacy policy: Samsung will only collect your interactive voice commands when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV. For instance, by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control Smart TV users will then be able to trigger the command function.

Getting clarification on how Samsung’s speech recognition works is important to understand. There are two microphones, one does not record, it simply responds to commands and the other one inside the remote connects to the internet.

The microphone inside the TV uses predetermined commands like changing the channel or adjusting the volume. Nothing is recorded by this one.

Inside the remote is the microphone connected to the internet, this allows users to initiate content searches. Speaking into the remote, the TV owner can look for different movie genres or shows.

The microphone built into the remote does the listening, but only when the “voice” button is pressed. Once activated, a microphone icon appears on the TV screen indicating that the unit is recording speech.

If the voice button is inadvertently pressed, is one’s privacy at risk? Will it record everything being said? Customers who follow all the required steps are able to enjoy Samsung’s Smart TV voice recognition technology. If the voice interaction is not activated, it uses a different microphone, the one in the TV itself, that responds to a set of keywords and this microphone is not connected to the internet.

Once activated and connected to the internet, not only will it respond to commands but it will also search for content. The request is then translated by a third-party software and sent to the television as a command. The feature can be disabled, but then voice control would be limited to the predefined commands.

Samsung claims to employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices. This includes data encryption in order to prevent unauthorized collection.

Getting clarification of the Samsung policy and knowing that a specific button is pressed before any recording occurs can calm the fears this privacy scare instigated.

By Ailey Hines

Photo by Flickr Page – License

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