Samsung has recently issued a warning to customers who have purchased a Samsung Smart TV: don’t discuss personal or sensitive information in front of the TV! Um…what?
Yep, that’s right - when Samsung's Smart TV has a voice activation feature enabled, the TV set “listens” constantly to every word said within its earshot. Samsung is quite open about the fact that the TV will then share what it “hears” with the company itself and/or third parties. Right, well if the data transmission happens extremely securely, and the third party in question is only ever a company providing some sort of speech-to-text/voice recognition service, that seems sort-of OK. But what if the third parties are companies that are going to capitalise on our personal data to give us even more creepy targeted advertising (I get more than enough of that already!)? What about hackers? Stalkers? What if one of the third parties accessing the data - by hook or by crook - is some intelligence agency combing through conversations for certain “trigger” phrases, in a blind and misguided attempt to root out terrorists?
Sure, this is all probably relatively innocuous when compared to much of the online surveillance that has been ongoing for many years. But this does rather smack of the omnipresent telescreens - part television, part Thought Police surveillance tool - in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four...
"Few people would expect a TV to intrude on our privacy, yet this is increasingly becoming the case," said Emma Carr, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch.