Samsung's Smart TVs Are Collecting And Storing Your Private Conversations

from the I-hear-the-secrets-that-you-keep/when-you-talk-by-the-TV dept

Guess who's eavesdropping on you now? It's not some nefarious government agency (although, rest assured, there has been no downturn in surveillance). Nope, it's that smart TV you paid good money for and invited into your home.

The "now" is misleading. Smart TVs have been doing this ever since manufacturers decided customers preferred to order their electronics around orally, rather than using the remote they can never find. And that's just the "eavesdropping" part. Most smart TVs are harvesting plenty of data on top of that, including viewing habits, search terms, browsing history… pretty much anything that makes a TV "smart" is collected and transmitted not just to the manufacturer, but to plenty of unknown third parties. Usually, this information is used to send "relevant ads" to TV owners, as if the several hundred dollars spent on the device wasn't enough of a revenue stream.

Samsung -- which is currently catching a lot of internet heat for its so-called "Privacy Policy" -- is no exception. It's the wording used that's making it the target du jour, turning other recent privacy policy villains (LG: "agree to share damn near everything or enjoy your super-expensive 'stupid' TV"; Microsoft: "why don't we just treat your living room like a movie theater and use our camera technology to count heads and charge increased VOD 'admission'") into distant memories.

Under "Voice recognition," Samsung's privacy policy says this:
To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. 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.
Obviously, some very temporary "collection" and "transmission" needs to take place to allow a third party service to "recognize" the user's voice and ensure the smart TV does what it's told. But Samsung also collects and captures these communications... and it doesn't really say how, where or for how long these are stored.

The EFF's Parker Higgins noted that Samsung's voice recognition policy sounds eerily like the description of "telescreens" from George Orwell's really-not-supposed-to-be-a-blueprint-for-the-future 1984.

Compare Samsung's wording...
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 Orwell's:
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 plaque 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

You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Fun stuff. The only thing missing from the scenario is a government intermediary. But it's not much a stretch to insert one.

It could certainly be construed that any personal communications collected and stored by Samsung would fall under the Third Party Doctrine. If a government agency (local law enforcement, FBI, etc.) wishes to acquire these, they wouldn't face much of a challenge because of the lowered expectation of privacy. If Suspect X is viewed carrying a Samsung smart TV into his home, law enforcement could issue a subpoena to Samsung to acquire any voice recordings it had collected from that device. Eavesdropping by proxy. Discuss a drug deal in front of the TV? Here come the cops. No warrants or wiretaps needed.

This hypothetical would require law enforcement to know the device's ID number, something that would be hard to obtain without an actual search warrant. In the most likely scenario, the voice recognition data would be collected after a regular search had been completed. Now, previous conversations people thought no one heard could be introduced as evidence against them, thanks to the widescreen narc installed on the premises.

Here's a hypothetical that's even more "fun" to consider: a law enforcement agency is aware certain smart TVs collect and store voice recordings (along with viewing habits, internet browsing history, search terms, etc.) So, officers kick off a gun amnesty program where unregistered weapons can be turned in for free big screen TVs. Now, this law enforcement agency has a small army of hi-def confidential informants installed in numerous homes. All data can be collected at the agency's convenience, using little more than the "unregistered guns must belong solely to criminals" rationale.

But Samsung isn't the only device manufacturer collecting, storing and transmitting its customers' everyday conversations. Others do it, too. Some just hide it better. In LG's 50+ pages of smart TV fine print, it says the following about voice recognition:
I agree that LG Electronics Inc. ("LGE") may process Voice Information in the manner set out in the Privacy Policy and below.

Voice Information refers to the recording of voice commands and associated data, such as information about the input device that is used to record commands (e.g., Magic Remote or built-in microphone), OS information, TV model information, content provider, channel information and service results.

I understand and agree that Voice Information may be use for the purpose of powering the voice activation feature when used to control, receive, and improve LG Smart TV Services and as described in the Privacy Policy.

I further understand and agree that LGE may share Voice Information with third parties, including providers of voice analytics.

I understand and agree that Voice Information may be transferred to, and used by, third party service providers on LGE's behalf in various countries around the world (including Korea), some of which may not offer the same level of data protection, for the purposes set out in the Privacy Policy.
And there's your Third Party Doctrine. All anyone arguing for the right to subpoena voice information has to do is point to the User Agreement as clear evidence that the person in question is voluntarily turning over voice recordings to a third party. And away goes the expectation of privacy.

We don't expect our devices to send overheard conversations to anyone other than the voice recognition technology provider. But they do. And they send it (and store it) without providing any specifics about the unnamed third parties, where they're located, how secure these transmissions are (to protect them from criminals -- the other unwanted "third parties") or how long the manufacturer itself retains this data.

The transparency level of these manufacturers rivals that of the government. And that's not a good thing, because it makes it far too easy for them to become willing partners with agencies that thrive on the abuse of the Third Party Doctrine. Samsung -- and manufacturers like it -- need to provide more than vague assurances. They need to explicitly explain what's happening to all the data they're collecting, especially when the collection involves entertainment devices listening in on private conversations... and calling it a "feature."

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 5:25am

    The good news is that you can still keep it disconnected from the Internet which should stop any collection. Maybe it will be 'fixed' in the future via mandatory connection for regular use.

    I do think it's a good thing to have a TV capable of reading stuff from hard drives and running applications such as Netflix, Youtube. But honestly knowing this I'm just avoiding connecting smart tvs altogether (or buy without the smart included). Thinking about it, it seems anything that is smart needs to be avoided if you want a little bit of privacy these days...

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:22am

      Re:

      "The good news is that you can still keep it disconnected from the Internet which should stop any collection."

      How do you know it's not secretly connecting to your wifi or a neighboring open wifi and sending information without your knowledge. Or maybe it connects to a 4G or similar network.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:01am

        Re: Re:

        Hmmm, there's no open wifi near my home but you do have a point. Except for my case, my TV is wired ;)

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:27am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So maybe it's sending information via the wire

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Ninja (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Hardly, it's not connected. But I was planning to connect it for the netflix app. Now I'll first block the proper IPs on the router to avoid such data collection.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              How do you know which IPs are the proper ones to block? If Netflix uses a limited range of IPs then I would consider white listing them and those only.

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              • icon
                John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:45am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                My general policy with firewall configuration makes this relatively simple: I block all traffic, both incoming and outgoing, by default -- then whitelist the specific stuff I need to do what I need to do.

                That way I don't have to worry if I've blocked all the right IP addresses, and I can determine which addresses to whitelist by examining the router logs to see what was blocked when I was trying to do whatever I was trying to do and engaging in a small amount of trial an error.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:54am

      Re:

      What ticks me off is that the privacy invasion is not something technical that is needed to make ANYTHING work.....its a concious decision to implement this over a working system that doesnt need it to function......manufactured invasion..........it tells me we have folks in the "mass production" areas that either dont understand, care or are intentionally malicious

      Expectation of privacy was our trust, which they've lost, now theres an expectation of understanding and change, if they ignore that second chance, what is increasingly becoming an undeserved olive branch, then they reap what they sow as far as im concerned.....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      John Nemesh, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:14am

      Re:

      You can always just disable the feature from the menu as well. This "revelation" shouldn't be any surprise...the same thing applies to that new Amazon product that "listens", as well as when you use "Siri" or "Google Now" or "Cortana". Also true if you are using a Kinect with the Xbox One (one of the major reasons I didn't buy into Microsoft's gaming box this time around...ESPECIALLY when, right before launch, they were saying Kinect was REQUIRED to be plugged in and operational, now at least it's optional!)

      While the fact that your TV has been "listening" to you has been true for several years...the fact that Samsung is disclosing exactly what it is doing should alleviate a lot of concern here.

      I work for a distributor, catering to custom A/V installers, and I ALWAYS recommend that they disable these features. One, they don't work as well as they should, and two, it invades your privacy. Same goes with the "motion controls" that work with the camera. It will be a cold day in hell before I have an internet connected camera and mic in my bedroom or living room! That being said, I have no problems owning a set like this...as long as the feature is disabled.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:55am

        Re: Re:

        "That being said, I have no problems owning a set like this...as long as the feature is disabled."

        Wouldn't that still encourage them, at least from an economic standpoint?

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:21am

        Re: Re:

        "That being said, I have no problems owning a set like this...as long as the feature is disabled."

        But how can you be sure?

        I, for one, will never purchase a "smart" TV without being very, very certain that there's no way for it to talk to a communications network no matter how hard it tries. I have no reason to trust the manufacturer's word that disabling that stuff actually disables that stuff.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:41am

        Re: Re:

        You can always just disable the feature from the menu as well.

        when you disable it, does it disable the mic from obtaining the sounds, from the service from receiving the sound, or the service from returning information?

        I believe Verizon has "opt out" features also, but only to the point of you not knowing what is happening.

        Or, is this setup like a CALEA service, where you control the UI, and they control the actual functionality.

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    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:29am

      Re:

      We've already seen officials declare that iPhone encryption and VPN tunnels lead to terrorism and child pornography.

      A similar declaration about unplugging your smart TV from the internet is just a few years away, if not a few months.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Geno0wl (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:08am

    And they wonder

    And my family wonders why I prefer to build my own media tower with a plex server over a smart TV...

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    • icon
      Easily Amused (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:49am

      Re: And they wonder

      YES- I went full cord-cutter with a Plex server and some automation tools for media collection. My whole extended family got Chromecast dongles for Xmas and they all love it.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:09am

    I'd be more concerned about it transmitting the audio from an episode of 24 than the audio from my front room.

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  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:14am

    >_

    Google is doing the same thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:10am

      Re: >_

      1. Really? You have a citation for that, or are you just conflating all kinds of data collection and missing the point of the issue?

      2. How does that deflection absolve Samsung of any wrongdoing?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:22am

        Re: Re: >_

        Google does indeed do the same thing, for the same reason, if you're using Google's voice recognition stuff. The recognition is learned and performed on their servers, not on your hardware, so it requires sending the audio data to them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 2:44am

          Re: Re: Re: >_

          "if you're using Google's voice recognition stuff"

          I'm going to guess this is the difference, and it's a big one.

          Now, I haven't used either service myself, but from what I understand, using Google's service is a deliberate thing. You'll say what you want to be recognised, then it's processed. With Samsung, the issue seems to be that it's collecting information passively, and it's this ability that's causing the controversy.

          Correct me if I'm wrong with my understanding, but even if the underlying technology is the same, there's a huge difference between active and passive participation with this kind of thing. On top of that, there's a huge difference in expectation between what your PC/phone is doing and what your TV is doing. What's acceptable on the former may well be controversial on the latter even if they are doing the same thing.

          Of course, the guy above has not responded to my second point, which is why try to deflect by raising Google. Even if they are doing exactly the same thing, why try to deflect attention away from Samsung? "But they do it too!" is not an argument that works outside of the playground.

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          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:40am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: >_

            "You'll say what you want to be recognised, then it's processed. With Samsung, the issue seems to be that it's collecting information passively, and it's this ability that's causing the controversy."

            I don't know the details of how Samsung's TVs work, but my assumption is that they provide a verbal phrase to activate voice recognition, like Google's "OK Google" and Siri's "Hey Siri". To do that, the devices have to be listening all the time, not just when you're actively using the recognition -- so Samsung's stuff would be doing precisely the same thing as Google and Siri.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:46am

      Re: >_

      AH, but Google doesn't actively hide what it's doing. Which is the key problem here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Paul E. Merell, J.D. (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 11:59pm

      Re: >_

      So does Windows Phone 8:

      "When you first start Speech, we ask if you want to enable the speech recognition service. If you accept, the words you speak and supporting data, including recent contact names, will be sent to Microsoft to provide and improve the service. You can turn it off at any time by going to Settings Settings icon > Speech and clearing the Enable Speech Recognition Service check box. "

      http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/how-to/wp8/apps/use-speech-on-my-phone

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  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:23am

    And the crazy thing is that it won't be long till obtaining a tele without these "features" will be more expensive. Me? All I need my TV to do today is be a monitor. It does not need to:
    - listen to me
    - talk to me
    - be connected to the internet
    I'll stick to the remote for the timebeing...

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:38am

      Re:

      All I need my TV to do today is be a monitor.
      Then the solution is obvious, isn't it? It seems like most people aren't even using the tuners built into their TVs anymore, so what does a TV add over a monitor apart from speakers?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:30am

    Christ almighty

    Samsung knows of all the porn I watch from my external hard drive (as well as pornhub)?

    That's embarrassing!

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    • icon
      McCrea (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:37pm

      Re: Christ almighty

      No, sir, to the contrary it is quite impressive. A collection that great should be in a museum. Your entertainment center should be at least nominated as a World Heritage site. Thank you for a job well done.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:33am

    'They need to explicitly explain what's happening to all the data they're collecting'

    they need to stop gathering data of any sort and anything they already have should be destroyed immediately. i suppose a class action would perhaps get the manufacturers to agree.

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  • identicon
    Del_Varner, 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:44am

    Where's the mic?

    Surely, one can find the microphone and use some glue to render it inoperable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:08am

      Re: Where's the mic?

      Ive imagined a site that specifically does this, doing a public service by getting professionals to open up these devices, pictures/video guide, and given them a once over.....like those fix'it sites

      Thats assuming its not something added to specific orders

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:24am

      Re: Where's the mic?

      Surely, one can find the microphone and use some glue to render it inoperable.

      I would advise either—

      Diagonal pliers
      X-Acto knife

      Depending, of course, on whether the microphone is a discrete component connected by individual wires, or a surface mount component connected by PC board traces.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:45am

    Want to keep a Smart TV from being smart? Don't connect the damn thing to the internet.

    With so many other devices, "Smart TV" seems really dumb.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:12am

      Re:

      Unfortunately, as one of the AC's above pointed out, it's not that easy, you also have to make sure it's not able to connect to any available signals on it's own, whether that's an open wifi signal within range, or some other connection.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:48am

        Re: Re:

        Let's not forget that even the cable TV converter boxes of 30 years ago had secret *remote control* features that the cable company could access over the line, such as disabling the box if a check ever bounced.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Violynne (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:07am

        Re: Re:

        It is that easy.

        I've yet to find any Smart TV which auto-connects without the user's input.

        There are a few which won't start unless a connection is made, but that's why stores have a return policy.

        Oh, and for the record: Kinect has the same kind of ToS and it's been out for several years now.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That made me think, the security of auto connect, if your smart enough not to connect to your wifi, your shit out of luck if you happen to have an open wifi near, minus the mitm attacks, devices would have an open connection thats essentially out of your control

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:38am

      Re:

      I tried this by setting my LG TV to a non-existant gateway which meant it couldn't connect to the Internet but would still be able to access my NAS in the basement (being in the same segment). Guess what, it couldn't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:56am

    Bullsheeet!!!

    This hypothetical would require law enforcement to know the device's ID number, something that would be hard to obtain without an actual search warrant.

    Except they are giving it away freely or by pay to unknown parties. Just exactly how difficult do we really expect finding out your TV model and how to tap it would be?

    Not hard at all! Especially for someone that pays a legion of hackers to do nothing but mass attack its citizens private NON STOP!

    Block your Smart TV or become a dumb-ass!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    amoshias (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 6:57am

    I wish this site wasn't so hung up on 1984...

    This whole line of commentary is fundamentally weird to me. I feel like much of the time, people here are so overwhelmed by government overreach in the last decade or so that it becomes the lens through which everything is viewed - which means that you miss real, immediate, and obvious threats in favor of a parade of horribles involving the government. Yes, it is terrible to think that in the future, the cops could have an army of private informants sitting in everyone's living room, listening all the time. But that's hardly the worst-case scenario.

    You know what IS the worst-case scenario, to me? Not some theoretical (and admittedly likely!) hobgoblin of the cops, or FBI, or CIA getting their hands on that data. The worst-case scenario is the one that has a 100% chance of being true - that SAMSUNG has the data they're collecting. That a private company - with no responsibility to me, no safeguards or checks, and an explicit motive to monetize every drop of that information would be spying on me in my own house. There is no action the US - or any other - government has taken which is so bad it hasn't been matched by some corporation out to make a buck.

    It feels stupid to have to say this, but I will - OF COURSE I don't want the cops, or FBI, or CIA, to have access to this data. OF COURSE I wish I lived in a country where the 4th and 5th amendments were better-respected. But as an average, everyday Joe, I will walk my data over to the NSA myself before I hand it over to Samsung.

    Really, though - if you buy a TV, or phone, or whatever, explicitly advertised as spying on everything you say... what else do you expect?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:34am

      Re: I wish this site wasn't so hung up on 1984...

      "Yes, it is terrible to think that in the future, the cops could have an army of private informants sitting in everyone's living room, listening all the time."

      That isn't the nightmare that the book (or the article) presents at all. In the book, only a small percentage of people with telescreens were being spied on. The actual nightmare is the fact that you could never tell if you were in that percentage or not.

      Just like we have right now in real life.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:19am

        Re: Re: I wish this site wasn't so hung up on 1984...

        The idea of the spyscreens was wild enough at the time. The ability to monitor all of them all the time would have been viewed as completely ludicrous.
        Turns out reality is even worse than fiction in this case... all that's missing is a government mandate to have these in our homes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 3:18pm

      Re: I wish this site wasn't so hung up on 1984...

      "Really, though - if you buy a TV, or phone, or whatever, explicitly advertised as spying on everything you say... what else do you expect?"

      Except it isn't being advertised as such. It's buried in the privacy policy or other terms, which nobody reads. If this article helps spread awareness of the issue, then it has served its purpose.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 11:30pm

      Re: I wish this site wasn't so hung up on 1984...

      yes, much better to ignore what goes around you, until worst case you get a repeat of history's worst atrocities right. Since everyone focused on the bread and circuses instead of the hard road of fixing something that had gone horribly broken.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:11am

    I've always said if the Devil wanted an army, he'd bury a contract in an EULA/TOS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:26am

    Ive had two smart tv's so far, apart from trying them out for a couple of days at the begining to see what they were about, the moment i realised how closed source, restrictive and the lack of any kind of control at the os's level i had, well, lets just say, i havent used them since or ever plan too.........a hdmi hooked up android device might not offer as much piece of mind or control as i like, but its alot better then the samsung type "smart" tv, and being less restrictive, offers more choices

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:37am

    Radio

    Sounds like someone needs to set up a continuous running loop of Rush Limbaugh next to the speaker, so the transcribers get nothing but right-wing filth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:37am

    Voice recognition tv last i checked were more expensive then the budget tvs, so not only are you being screwed, your paying the most amount of money to be screwed.........at least for now or in this particular case

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:43am

    I still can't fathom why anyone would think the solution to remotes with a gazillion pointless buttons would be gesture recognition where you have to sit still or voice recognition where you better whisper so you don't switch channels inadvertantly (or worse, see above). As with the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, these engineers will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:43am

    The Snowdon leaks revealed that secret NSA backdoors had been installed in Cisco routers, and it's been well established that cell phones and laptops can be remotely activated to work as secret recording devices.

    It would indeed be most surprising if the NSA, FBI, and other government agencies were not already engaged (or at least planning to be) in exploiting a smart-TV's voice recognition capabilities. And the NSA would, of course, be doing this without any search warrants, subpoenas, or other legally-required procedures.

    And of course hackers (the kind not working for the government) will do as hackers have always done, and smart-TVs will become just one more entry point to break into and exploit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rich Kulawiec, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:12am

      Re:

      Precisely so. The question is not whether these smart TVs and the databases they feed have been hacked: of course they have. The questions are by whom? and how? and when??

      (Note that in the US, it's not even necessary to hack them. A NSL with attached gag order will suffice to cause Samsung to provide a complete feed of everything.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gracey (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:47am

    So, if you have a smart TV, hand out notepads and pens, and write notes to each other, and for gods sake, don't speak out loud .. oh yeah, and don't text either.

    Correspondence by paper and pen...right back to where we started. What's next, hand signs? stone and chisel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      beltorak (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:42am

      Re:

      at the end of citizenfour, snowden and greenwald were sitting in snowden's living room talking about another leaker; they were writing the sensitive parts down on paper, on a table with a glass top.

      yeah, right back where we started.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:00am

    All users with any device should have 100% control of what goes in and out of said device, purposefully circumventing 100% control should be seen as suspect and grounds for proportional punishment......ideally, by the community i.e. wallet, comments, alternatives etc etc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:06am

    In a modern remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL goes insane over eavesdropping and related legal issues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:14am

    Old News!

    Apparently the Net does not go into panic mode until they read it in the Daily Beast! This same feature of the Samsung's SmartTV was noticed at least as far back as October last year.

    Check out:

    http://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/im-terrified-my-new-tv-why-im-scared-turn-thing

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:36am

    I only have one question: can we disable the spying features in "Smart" TVs?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:15am

      Re:

      Don't plug the Smart TV into the internet. Leave the ethernet cable unplugged.

      Dunno if any Smart TVs come with Wi-Fi. But if so, turn that off. Or don't give it your Wi-Fi password, and hope that it doesn't connect through a nearby open Wi-Fi connection.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:30am

        Re: Re:

        "hope that it doesn't connect through a nearby open Wi-Fi connection."

        You could test for this: set up your own open WiFi, then look at the list of devices that are connected to it and see if the TV appears.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      Yep, buy it then bin it

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 4:13pm

      Re:

      The only way to truly disable these "features" is to not connect the TV to the internet. But then none of what makes these TV's "smart" will work, meaning you've wasted your money. So if you don't want to potentially be spied on the obvious thing to do is not buy one in the first place. Just get a regular TV and plug in devices over which you have more control.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    the threat to peace is the USA, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:50am

    starts SCREAMING

    SCREAMS "PENIS, PENIS" all day in front of it....

    come on everyone now...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Guardian, 9 Feb 2015 @ 8:57am

    Breach of law

    this is 100% illegal to do in canada, without express written consent....and how we know you have never signed off , well people for a living read that crap and that fine print.....they would have blown a whistle long ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:24am

      Re: Breach of law

      Irrelevant. Smart TVs, Kinect, Siri, Cortana and other services with cloud-based speech recognition are already too fully entrenched in Canada to be prosecuted.

      All they can do is pass some new laws on how that data gets used by private industry. With, no doubt, exceptions for law enforcement and "anti-terrorism."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 2:49pm

      Re: Breach of law

      "this is 100% illegal to do in canada,"

      Heh, laws are for the little people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:42am

    "Obviously"

    Obviously, some very temporary "collection" and "transmission" needs to take place to allow a third party service to "recognize" the user's voice and ensure the smart TV does what it's told.
    It depends how you parse this sentence. Obviously that would be necessary when using a third-party service. But are users expecting it to work that way, or do they think TVs do it locally? They have the CPU power to do so. Maybe it would be hard to get the same recognition quality, but if users had to prefix commands by saying "TV" or something, they at least wouldn't have to transmit all the recorded sounds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 3:18pm

      Re: "Obviously"

      Limited-vocabulary voice recognition can easily achieve high accuracy even on hardware that is far less powerful than a smart phone. If you can put up with the need to train it, then the accuracy goes through the roof. Samsung isn't using the third party cloud service out of technical necessity, they're probably doing it to save money.

      Personally, I find it very curious that Samsung is steadfastly refusing to say who is doing their VR for them. I think that's an important piece of information -- unless we know at least that, it's impossible to tell how risky using the VR actually is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 12:24am

        Re: Re: "Obviously"

        Personally, I find it very curious that Samsung is steadfastly refusing to say who is doing their VR for them.

        Well the NSA are experts in the field, and have this new computer center in Bluffdale...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    gorehound (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:50am

    The only thing connected in my home with the Net is my desktop home built workstation which is properly secure and VPN as well.

    There is no way in hell that I will ever connect my home to a NET to be spied upon .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jackn, 9 Feb 2015 @ 9:52am

    what if Im singing a katy perry song in my living room. I don't want to go to jail for copyright infringement because I broadcasted a performance on the Samsung spynet.

    Nevermind, I would never sing a kp song.

    Wait, what if we are having a birthday party and we sing happy birthday (i know, its illegal, but sometimes we take the risk in our own home). Might we go to jail if samsung captures us singing Happy birthday to our baby?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:17am

    Please keep the SMART out of the TV

    I hope I never have to buy a Smart TV. I just want an ordinary TV thank you.

    Reasons why:

    Competition and open market. I can buy whatever choice of "smart tv" box that I want. Amazon Fire Stick. Chromecast. Google TV. Roku. PS/3, Xbox, MythTV, Etc. I can even have more than one. Even with overlapping functions. Or even no smart tv at all for those who don't want one.

    Competition for the smart TV boxes is important for the future. Just think of what happens if there is a new "Microsoft" of smart tv boxes, and maybe then only one major streaming platform (think "Comcast" of streaming platforms).

    The price of the TV is cheaper without building in the smart tv.

    If the smart tv box is spying on me, it is not part of the TV and I can get rid of it. It probably cost about $100 which is way less than the cost of the TV.

    The Smart TV box becomes obsolete long before the expensive TV does. In fact, the TV might last multiple generations of smart TV box. (This is why I also think buying a computer built into a monitor is a dumb idea.) I can replace the inexpensive smart tv box without throwing out the expensive TV part.

    If I don't like the EULA of a smart tv, I don't have to forego the nice TV just because it has a smart TV component with a ridiculous EULA.

    Keeping the prices unbundled prevents various pricing games that are played when things are bundled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:28am

      Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

      Mirrored my thoughts

      you'd probably be interested in project ara if you own an android and not seen it before

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 10:54am

      Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

      I might just be a matter of time before ALL televisions are "smart" TVs, and anyone who refuses to have one will have to continue using an older one ... possibly forever.

      Like I did with laptop PCs, since I swore that I would never buy one that had a camera and microphone. Which means that I might never again buy a new one, since camera and microphone free laptops have not been sold for many years and might never be sold again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

        It's trivially easy to disable both the camera and microphone on laptops without even opening their cases. Cover them both with duct tape. In my experiments, duct tape alone is enough to foil the microphone.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 11:46am

          Re: Re: Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

          Just because we can't hear something doesn't mean it's not there. Paranoid types might want to consider the existence of forensic audio enhancement techniques -- a science that has come a long way since Nixon's erased tapes once confounded Watergate investigators.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 1:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

            Tools to do that type of forensic analysis are readily available, so the really paranoid types can check for themselves. You don't even need the special tools, really. You can do it with most mid to high end audio editing software, but that requires a little bit more effort.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 2:33pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

              Does that mean that your "duct tape over the microphone" experiment produced zero trace of (amplifiable) sound when processed and analyzed by audio software?

              That seems a bit hard to believe, considering that putting one's hand (which is much thicker and presumably more soundproof than duct tape) over a telephone only muffles, but does not eliminate sound (which will always to a lesser degree be transmitted through the back and sides of the device the speaker/microphone is mounted in).

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                John Fenderson (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 3:31pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

                "Does that mean that your "duct tape over the microphone" experiment produced zero trace of (amplifiable) sound when processed and analyzed by audio software?"

                No, I never did that analysis. I handle my privacy needs another way altogether.

                "That seems a bit hard to believe, considering that putting one's hand (which is much thicker and presumably more soundproof than duct tape) over a telephone only muffles"

                That's a completely different situation. If your phone has the same tiny little opening that laptop microphones do, then putting your hand over it will have just the effect you describe, but putting your fingertip over the little hole will be incredibly effective. There are sound reasons why this is the case, but that's probably diving deeper than I should in a comment.

                In any case, this -- like all security measures -- isn't a case of "it's perfect or it's useless". If an unusual amount of processing is required to recover the original signal, then it's still going to be effective against wholesale surveillance. It just won't be effective if someone is interested enough in you to pay special attention.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 6:30am

        Re: Re: Please keep the SMART out of the TV

        > I might just be a matter of time before ALL televisions are "smart" TVs

        You mean 'telescreens'?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tweak (profile), 9 Feb 2015 @ 1:37pm

    Oh, the irony inherent in that the revolution will not even occur (let along be televised) since the televisions are the ones that fingered all of the revolutionaries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2015 @ 7:00pm

    * “He who controls home entertainment controls the future. He who controls the corporations controls home entertainment.”

    * “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it in the ToS.”

    * “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and HDTV, and for the great bulk of mankind, HDTV is better.”

    * "We've always been at war with your Sony."

    Nobody seems to have done this yet, so I've been forced to give it a try.
    (http://i.imgur.com/I2KBdAZ.jpg?1)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan G Difino, 10 Feb 2015 @ 9:13am

    Take that you spying CEO

    Every spying corporation, that is every CEO and top management who spy on their customers like that should have to have a microphone surgically implanted up their anuses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 9:15am

      Re: Take that you spying CEO

      ..and then with every subsequent bad idea, there could be someone there in the room to tell them to sit on it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2016 @ 5:27pm

    Smartyv DO NOT spy, collect data ! impossible to 'spy' 100+ million smarttvs sold ALL OVER PLANET EARTH, who the hell can watch 100 million + marttv recordings lol NOBODY, thats who !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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