For the superstitious, and conspiracy theorists, an Orwellian revelation on this Friday the 13th of February. As reported last week by the Daily Beast, Samsung, the world’s no. 1 manufacturer of HDTVs, is warning customers who use voice commands to control their smart TVs that if they speak “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.” So, “What’s the big deal,” you ask? Essentially, Samsung has given notice that their smart TVs have the capability of capturing and transmitting every word that is spoken within range of the device. Although this is something many of us knew, or at least suspected, now it’s out it in the open.
So be advised: If you’re too lazy to pick up the remote, you may want to keep your conversation with the TV as direct and non-incriminating as possible. Don’t talk about tax evasion, drug use. And definitely don’t try out your Violet Crawley impression.
In theory, that means a private telephone or in-person conversation that you have with another individual could be recorded and sent to an unidentified third party for transcription and voice recognition analysis. The subject of your conversation could be anything from an argument with your spouse, children, or business partner. It could include sensitive salary or financial information, and even credit card numbers—haven’t you ever paid for pizza, sushi, or Chinese-food delivery using plastic? Maybe there are Apple employees with Samsung Smart TVs—that would explain how the upcoming iPhone designs keep getting leaked to the media in advance of release.
And that’s just Samsung. What about all the other HDTV brands, not to mention voice activated GPS devices, Xbox, and even Siri? What speech are they capturing and transmitting to third parties? If we don’t take steps to protect our privacy, we might find ourselves living in a world where our insurance rates are higher because, based on things said in our living rooms, we are deemed to engage in risky behavior, or we are passed up for a promotion at work because we criticize our superiors when telling our spouses about our workday.