February 9, 2015 2:35 pm
Updated: February 17, 2016 9:59 am

Samsung under fire for Smart TV feature that listens to conversations

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WATCH: Nicole Bogart reports on new concerns that Samsung’s Smart TVs are listening in on our conversations.

TORONTO – Samsung has come under fire for the worrisome wording of its privacy policy pertaining to how its Smart TVs collect data from built-in voice recognition software.

The feature allows Smart TV owners to bark commands at their television – for example, “Channel up” to change the channel, or “Smart Hub” to view settings and apps.

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According to Samsung’s privacy policy, the voice recognition software may “capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features.”

But here is where the wording gets a little scary, “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.”

The wording – first noticed by The Daily Beast – has ignited privacy concerns for users who are now wondering if their televisions overheard that fight with their partner, or that conversation about forgetting to file taxes last year.

READ MORE: Internet of Things has potential but raises security, privacy issues

But, in a statement issued to Global News, the company said the gadgets only record voice commands and searches – not whole conversations.

“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,” read the statement from Samsung Canada.

“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.”

Samsung added the data collected from the voice recognition software only consists of TV commands, or search sentences.

Additionally, if the feature is activated at any time, users would be able to see a microphone icon appear on their screen – but, this means users would have to be paying attention to their TVs.

Of course, customers with privacy concerns can disable the feature by turning off voice recognition in the settings.

Privacy experts have increasingly warned about the dangers of smart devices and the so-called “Internet of Things.” Last month, the head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission urged tech companies to make consumer data security a priority when building new products.

Experts have also warned that smart TVs could be vulnerable to hackers.

Hackers have been known to hijack the cameras on laptops and gaming consoles – many smart TV models also have cameras.

In 2013, security researchers at the Black Hat security conference demonstrated how they found vulnerabilities in Samsung’s 2012 Smart TV models that would have allowed hackers to turn on the camera and access files.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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