With technology advancing by leaps and bounds every year, everything we use seems to be getting smarter and smarter. While this is good news for the most part, it might be worrying to those who are concerned about their privacy.
In the past few years we have seen this story played out a number of times. Take, for instance, the Xbox One’s Kinect, which is an always-on camera that monitors both your voice and bodily motions. While Microsoft stated that there were ways to disable its functionality temporarily, many were still concerned about what exactly Kinect was broadcasting to the world.
Or for another example, we have Apple’s Siri and other similar services like Google Now, which record what you say and store it on a central server, a server that certain company employees have access to.
Now, enter Samsung, who, like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, is interested in making “smart products.” Take for instance, their new Smart TV.
Samsung’s Smart TV is an interesting product, to be sure, and a testament to how quickly technology is advancing. What concerns people, however, is the fact that this always-connected device keeps track of everything you are saying.
Before I go too far into the details, let me briefly explain how this TV works. Basically, it comes equipped with the ability to track your voice, so that you can change the channel by speaking instead of having to use a remote. Pretty convenient, right?
This means that sensitive information, such as your passwords, your daily schedule, and more could possibly be collected by some mysterious party, who then has access to your personal data. This is not comforting in the least, considering how easy it is to hack servers these days.
As Business Insider notes, anything you say that might be construed as being related to some kind of illegal action on your part, may be picked up by your TV, saved to a server, and delivered to law enforcement. Or, even worse, your Smart TV could be hacked and turned into a listening device by cyber criminals.
Neither option sounds very appetizing to me, especially since we all know that many of the things we say in front of our TVs, in the “privacy” of our own homes, need to be taken with a huge grain of salt. What is scary is that Samsung won’t know the context of our conversations, and so might alert law enforcement whether or not we actually pose some kind of threat. As one website states, it all sounds creepily similar to the “telescreens” in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984.
As a result of all of these concerns, Samsung responded with this:
“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 unauthorised collection or use. Voice recognition, which allows the user to control the TV using voice commands, is a Samsung Smart TV feature, which can be activated or deactivated by the user. The TV owner can also disconnect the TV from the Wi-Fi network.”
Interestingly, Samsung made no reference to the fact that private conversations can and will be recorded, and did nothing to address the concern that sensitive information might be passed on to authorities.
Their response seemed to be targeted towards assuring consumers that their Smart TVs can’t be hacked, as seen by how they referenced their information encryption process. While that is great, it really doesn’t address the primary issue. To be fair, Samsung did make a point of saying voice commands could be deactivated, but that’s really not a solution, as why else would you buy a Smart TV if not for the convenience of voice commands? For that same reason, disconnecting the TV from Wi-Fi isn’t a true solution either.
Basically, what they are implying is that you can either use your Smart TV to its full potential and risk your privacy, or leave your Smart TV dumb and keep your privacy intact. Which do you value more? If it’s the latter, you might as well stick to dumb TVs. Not only are they far cheaper, but you will get just a bit more of a daily workout thanks to the fact that you will need to use a remote!
Are you concerned about the privacy issues surrounding smart devices? Do you plan on getting a voice-activated smart television, or are you sticking to the good old-fashioned remote for now? Let me know in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Samsung Curved TV/ Kārlis Dambrāns via flickr.com