Samsung SmartTVs may share private talks with 3rd party
'Personal or other sensitive information' may be sent to voice-to-text service
When you're relaxing in front of the TV with your loved ones, it may sometimes seem like a good time to open up and get some private thoughts off your chest. But if you have a Samsung SmartTV, you may be opening up to more people than you intend.
The issue arises if you have the TV's voice recognition feature turned on to allow you to control the TV with voice commands.
Samsung itself may also capture voice commands, including the versions converted to text, the company said.
Data collection can be disabled
Samsung noted that users can disable voice recognition data collection in the settings menu.
In its email, Samsung added that users can easily see if the voice recognition feature is activated because a microphone icon appears on the screen.
The company said users can also disconnect the TV from the Wi-Fi network to prevent their data from being transmitted.
"Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously," the company added. "In all of our SmartTVs, we employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers' personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use."
It encouraged consumers with concerns to call the company at 1-800-SAMSUNG.
Carmi Levy, a London, Ont.-based technology writer, recommended that smart TV owners turn the voice recognition feature off or go into another room if discussing something highly sensitive.
He said the voice recognition is by nature always listening to you, "waiting for you to talk to it. And when you do, that information has to go somewhere."
He added that the same risks apply not just to smart TVs, but other voice recognition technology, including Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistants or Amazon's Echo device. He suggested the same precautions should be taken around those devices also.
"They let you command it to do things, which is very convenient," he said, "but that convenience comes at a price."
Valerie Lawton, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, said in an email the office is aware of the issue of voice-activated services generally. However, she said privacy issues depend on the technical design of the system and the associated policies and practices.
Her office hasn't examined those in the case of Samsung's smart TVs. The office is currently looking more generally at privacy issues that can arise from smart devices or the Internet of Things and will issue a series of reports later this year.
Samsungs are not the only SmartTVs that have raised privacy concerns since they hit the market.
In 2013, LG Electronics Inc. confirmed that some of its smart TVs were sending information on home viewing habits back to the company without consent. The company said it would fix the problem.