This Is What the Samsung Smart TV Privacy Policy Warning Means for You

In an era of (digital) paranoia, the last place anyone wants to worry is in the comfort in their own home. But after coming across a troubling line in Samsung’s privacy policy, your leisure time may not be as worry-free as you thought. Especially if you have one of those ‘Smart TV’ sets.

What’s Wrong with the Samsung Smart TV Privacy Policy?

Over the years, people have increasingly gotten rid of their clunky, outdated, remote controlled television sets. The modern models that have replaced them are sleek, sexy, and often voice controlled. However, this futuristic feature may not be as desirable as you think.
A growing concern among people who’ve bought or are considering buying a Smart TV is that it may be listening. As pointed out in a Daily Beast article, the convenient voice command feature could be capturing more than your simple, seemingly harmless request to play your favorite television series.[1]

According to the Samsung Smart TV privacy policy from 2015, “If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”[1]

After reading this, some people took to Twitter, making side-by-side comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984.

Left: Samsung SmartTV privacy policy, warning users not to discuss personal info in front of their TV

Right: 1984 pic.twitter.com/osywjYKV3W

— Parker Higgins, 1337 |-| (@xor) February 8, 2015

Interestingly, the current privacy policy has been updated and seems arguably vaguer:

“If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and 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. Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control.”

What the Samsung Smart TV Privacy Policy Actually Means

To give Samsung the benefit of the doubt, it does seem that the tech giant is merely collecting voice data to give their customers – you – a better, more seamless television experience. In short, according to Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Samsung is “using a third-party service to convert speech to text” to help make your Smart TV smarter.[2] So, assuming Samsung is not out to get you…

Here’s How to Protect Your Privacy Online and On Your Devices

For those of you who specifically have a Smart TV, according to Samsung’s privacy policy:[3]

“If you do not enable Voice Recognition, you will not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, although you may be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands. You may disable Voice Recognition data collection at any time by visiting the ‘settings’ menu. However, this may prevent you from using some of the Voice Recognition features.”

While disabling the voice command features may defeat the purpose of why you bought a Smart TV in the first place, it may be worth it if you’re still worried about your conversations being tracked to some degree.