If you own a Samsung TV, you probably stopped to look at it closer recently to try to figure out if it is spying on every word you say in the living room. In early February a privacy notice included terminology that made some users wonder if their Samsung Smart TV was spying on them by listening to conversations in their living rooms that could include private and sensitive information.
Is your Samsung Smart TV spying on you? Despite the comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984 novel that uses a TV to watch citizens and monitor their activities, this is less nefarious than some would have you believe. Watch our video below to find out exactly what Samsung is doing with your voice.
The concern that Samsung is listening to whatever you say in your living room certainly draws a lot of attention, but this only happens when a user activates a microphone to listen for a voice command.
The Samsung Smart TV is not always listening to what you say in hopes of uncovering your secret desire to get a new job, how much you liked Kanye’s Grammy stage rush and Beck bashing or who you plan to vote for this fall.
In an update today Samsung explained voice controls and flat-out stated,
“Samsung Smart TVs do not monitor living room conversations.”
In the announcement Samsung outlines two different ways voice commands work. There is a microphone in some TVs that lets users raise or lower the volume and change channels with their voice. A second microphone in the remote lets users issue a voice command for remote control functions. This includes asking for an action adventure movie, check the weather, go to a specific channel and more. You can see a demonstration of this below.
“If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and 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. Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control.”
In short, if you say something personal or private while also using a voice command, that information could be transferred to Nuance’s servers to turn your spoken words into text that the TV can understand. Samsung may use the captured voice commands to improve the service. This is fairly common with a similar statement from Amazon regarding Fire TV voice commands and Apple’s Siri personal assistant keeps an version of your voice clips that aren’t tied to your Apple ID or email to improve the service according to a report from Wired.
In short, your Samsung Smart TV is not spying on you, but you can turn off Voice control in your TV settings if you don’t want to use the feature. You can also simply avoid using the voice button on the remote control. The photo above shows the Voice command option on a Samsung Smart TV. When you press that button your voice clip is sent to Nuance so the service can convert it to text that your TV can use to issue a command.