A couple of weeks ago someone posted the following quote from Samsung’s Smart TV terms of service on Reddit: “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.”
In the days that followed, everyone from old media to new media to the official blog of Syracuse University posted their thoughts on a TV eavesdropping on your family‘s every word. Unfortunately, until someone starts building privacy extensions or plug-ins like “Do Not Track” and “AdBlock” for Smart TV operating systems, the only way to stop this sort of tracking is to disable voice recognition.
Samsung is doing a great job showing us how terrible smart TVs can be http://t.co/lviEFqDB8G
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) February 11, 2015
Let me be the first to admit that I am not totally familiar with the inner workings of Samsung’s past Google TV, present Samsung Smart TV or future Tizen operating systems, so I can’t confirm that anti-tracking or other browser-like plug-ins are even a possibility.
However, from everything I have read about their application development and vetting process, there is no explicit policy stopping anyone from building privacy add ons, yet there also aren’t any prominent privacy plugins for any Smart TV systems, Samsung included.
Perhaps more unfortunately, if you think Samsung’s is the only terms of service contract with that or a similar sentence buried in it, then I have bad news for you: it’s not.
Apple reserves the right to “use [customer] personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Apple’s products, services, and customer communications” across its product line. It permits itself to share this information with “its affiliates” as well (whoever they are).
#Samsung #SmartTV Voice Recognition picks up private conversationsTweet
Google admits that it collects information about the services you use, though it cleverly hides the specifics in pop-up windows, but that information includes: data usage and system preferences, Gmail messages (that’s content, by the way), G+ profile information, photos, videos, browsing history, map searches, docs (again this is the content stored in your docs), or other Google-hosted content.
Among the few who actually do or would read terms, even less comprehend them. The argument about whether blindly checking a box actually constitutes consent, let alone informed consent, is a longstanding and valid one. For now, box-checking without reading is the norm, not matter how desperately you yearn for clear privacy statements and understandable terms.
What the future holds is impossible to forecast other than that there will be more connected devices, many of which will include more invasive and effective voice recognition. Google and Apple and Samsung and the other tech giants are ahead of curve here, if only slightly. These companies, whether you agree with them or not, are privacy-aware. They may be peddling your personal information to third parties, but at least they are thinking about it beforehand.
— Kaspersky Lab (@kaspersky) January 15, 2015
Just wait until all the many appliance manufactures that don’t have a decade or more worth of privacy experience are incorporating voice recognition and activation services into their products. That’s when things are going to get really interesting.