Be Warned, Samsung Smart TVs Can "Listen" to Your Living Room Chatter

Samsung says "personal or other sensitive information" can be captured via voice-search, but claims it's nothing to worry about.

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Electronics giant Samsung has acknowledged that its line of Internet-connected Smart TVs are capable of capturing chatter in the living room, though the company claims there is nothing to worry about.

First discovered by The Daily Beast was a line from Samsung's privacy policy that warns users that the TV's voice-command feature is capable of capturing basically everything you say.

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“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," it states.

For its part, Samsung says it's capturing voice commands, along with text inputs, so that it can "evaluate and improve" the experience overall. This is not unlike the way in which customer service calls are often recorded with the hope of doing better next time. What's more, the "third-party" referenced here is likely a speech-to-text company; this is not unlike how other voice-enabled search systems work.

Of course, you can switch off voice recognition, but Samsung notes that its Smart TVs will still capture your text-based inputs. If you want to go even further and ensure there is no chance your data is captured, you can always disconnect your TV from the network.

Samsung said in a statement that it takes seriously consumer privacy, adding that it encrypts all captured data to ensure it's not compromised.

"Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously. In all of our Smart TVs we employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers' personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use," the company said to GameSpot sister site CNET.

The spokesperson went on to say that anytime the Samsung Smart TV voice recognition software is running, users will see a microphone icon on the screen.

Regarding the "third-parties" mentioned above, Samsung outlined the situation thusly:

"Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third-parties. 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."

CNET editor Chris Matyszczyk argues that privacy policies such as Samsung's are only going to become more commonplace as new devices lean more heavily on broadband services.

"We have all agreed to this. We click on 'I agree' with no thought of consequences, only of our convenience," he writes. "It isn't just your TV that will listen and record. Soon, it'll be everything that has a digital connection. This is our digital bed. We lie in it willingly."

Concerns over Samsung's Smart TV line being able to "listen in" on living room conversations are not unlike issues some raised regarding the potential for Xbox's Kinect to do the same. However, Microsoft has time and again stressed that data captured by the Xbox Kinect camera does not leave the console.

Leaked documents from former NSA insider Edward Snowden in February 2014 revealed that a British spy agency contemplated using Kinect camera for surveillance, though it's unclear if any snooping ever actually took place.

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