As The Internet of Things Grows, Samsung Warns Of Listening TVs

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Samsung UN46H5203AFXZA 46" 1080p Full HD TV. Image obtained with thanks from Samsung.

Samsung issued a privacy warning stating that those who use the voice activation feature of Samsung Smart TVs shouldn’t have private conversations near them, as the TVs are listening. So, why would Samsung’s TVs be listening to you? Speech recognition systems have to listen to you so they can interpret and respond to your commands. This entails listening to every word you say. This data will be transmitted to a third party.

Samsung UN46H5203AFXZA 46" 1080p Full HD TV.  Image obtained with thanks from Samsung.
Samsung UN46H5203AFXZA 46″ 1080p Full HD TV.
Image obtained with thanks from Samsung.

As Samsung UK said:

‘If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. 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.’

This makes sense, as speech recognition technology needs improvement.

The Internet Of Things Is A Double-Edged Sword

The world has seen incredible technological advancements in speech recognition, facial recognition, optical character recognition technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things has the potential to help us out in many ways, including energy conservation. For example: If the temperature suddenly drops, you can instruct your heater to switch on shortly before you get home to warm the place up, so you won’t have to wait for the cold house to warm up when you get home. This can save energy if the home owner was already leaving the heater on while at work.

Your appliances can also use remote speech recognition technology instead of handling the task themselves. One benefit associated with this is: The speech recognition system could continue to improve without appliance firmware updates or appliance upgrades (despite that, manufacturers are likely to stop supporting your older appliances and get you to buy new ones anyway).

Drawbacks Of The Internet of Things

As is the case with many concepts, their disadvantages may not manifest themselves clearly until they are in mainstream use. The Internet of Things is likely to develop into a world of Internet-connected appliances with built-in cameras and microphones for voice commands and facial recognition/authentication. At some point, there will be appliances listening to you in every room. This is where the ability to have private conversations ends, literally. At the moment, people don’t communicate credit card information or other sensitive data over messengers or phones terribly often, as these are seen as insecure communications methods. In the future, your payment details and other sensitive information will be vulnerable no matter what you do.

Security-wise, this could be a nightmare because hackers can access anything connected to the Internet (theoretically). You wouldn’t even be able to sit on your couch and have a private conversation. This could fuel identity theft, as identity thieves use personal information to gain access to peoples’ accounts. Hackers could also access built-in cameras used for authentication and watch what you’re doing. This may enable them to pick up sensitive information from various documents, whether they are physical, or on your computer screen.