Today, Samsung took a candid moment to come forward and inform the TV purchasing public that certain brands of their Smart TVs might accidentally be listening in on customers’ conversations, and reselling the data gathered by the microphone to third-party advertising services.
The company themselves are actually the ones putting out the warning, which suggests that their voice activation feature may be working a little too good, picking up more than the occasional “Netflix” command that it’s designed to listen for.
“If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or 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.”
Most of that seems pretty standard, but the meat of the problem comes right after:
“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.”
Despite their candid admission of guilt on behalf of what seems like a mixup in their technology department, the company has refused to elaborate on who exactly the third party receiving all this data is.
There’s been rampant speculation among the media that it could be something as innocuous as the outfit that Samsung works with to provide speech-to-text services, but until they confirm it for certain, it’s left up to the rest of us to keep guessing.
“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.”
Basically what the company is saying is that if you want to enjoy the convenience of owning a Smart TV that doesn’t need a remote, you could also run the risk of having your personal conversations and identifiable information recorded, packaged up, and shipped off to a potential advertiser for profit.
The BBC has reported that the text-to-speech company Nuance could be the third party, as much of the data gathered there is used to make voice-recognition tech more capable of accurately reproducing what it hears on screen.
Samsung has yet to confirm or deny the allegation of their workings with Nuance, though we’re sure they’re probably knee deep in lawyers right now, doing their best to formulate the perfect response.