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Samsung Says You Shouldn't Be Worried About Its TVs Recording And Transmitting Your Voice

It's fine. IT'S ALL FINE.

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It compares this line from Samsung's Smart TV privacy policy...

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.

...with these lines from George Orwell's 1984:

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plate commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork.

The furore is over the Samsung Smart TV's voice recognition feature.

Getty Images Ethan Miller

It allows users to control the TV using a microphone. It appears the "third party" in question is probably the company that produces Samsung's speech-to-text conversion, according to Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She told the Daily Beast: "If I were the customer, I might like to know who that third party was, and I’d definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form."

Samsung has given a statement to The Guardian about the feature:

The company said it took consumer privacy "very seriously", and that data gathering "is carried out with utmost transparency", with industry-standard security safeguards and practices" including "data encryption".

It said the voice recognition feature "consists of TV commands or search sentences" only, and that users could "easily recognise if the voice recognition feature is activated because a microphone icon appears on the screen".

The company added:

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.

Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

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