Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.
The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.
Such TV sets listen to some of what is said in front of them and may share details they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.
Privacy campaigners said the technology smacked of the telescreens, in George Orwell's 1984, which spied on citizens. Presumably the 'third parties' receiving the data are the likes of GCHQ and the NSA.
If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.
Soon after, an activist for the EFF circulated the policy statement on Twitter comparing it to George Orwell's description of the telescreens in his novel 1984 that listen to what people say in their homes.
Samsung explained further in response to the international interest:
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.
Samsung claimed that it did not retain voice data or sell the audio being captured. But this does not really deny the possibility that the data is passed on to GCHQ.
11th February 2015. See article
front of their televisions. Here's what it says now:
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.
The new language appears to indicate that Samsung is only sharing the audio data it captures with a speech recognition provider and not with more sinister partners, such as GCHQ and the NSA.
Update: Microsoft and Apple Too
14th February 2015. See article
Millions of Britons are being spied on in their homes by Microsoft's voice-activated Xbox game consoles, Apple smartphones and other hi-tech gadgets.
Kinect-controlled Xboxes listen to everything around them, silently waiting for commands such as Xbox turn on or instructions to load up computer games.
Apple also records what people say when they press a button on their iPhones and issue a command to its voice activation service Siri, but the firm says the data is anonymised, but this can usually be unpicked with information such as GPS location.
According to a source, Apple hangs on to the information for up to two years.
Microsoft's Kinect gadgets are so sophisticated and pervasive that Britain's telecommunications security agency, GCHQ, is even said to have considered using them to monitor families.
Like most gadgets that use voice recognition, Xboxes controlled by Kinect record what people say then translate that information into text commands so that the device knows what to do. Simple commands such as Xbox turn on are recorded and
processed on the spot, but more complicated instructions are sent to powerful remote servers for translation.
Microsoft said its customers can stop Kinect listening by unplugging it.