Samsung, arguably the market leader in smart television (Smart TV) sales and the manufacturer of the most highly reviewed Smart TV implementation (LCDTV Buying Guide) released their Smart TV privacy supplement, which they hoped would address some of the consternation Smart TV owners may have.
The Smart TV supplement contained all of the lawyer created verbiage we've become accustomed to reading in privacy statements, and a quick read indeed does confirm that your Smart TV (and the remote) has the ability to capture your voice, share your voice with their third-party vendor (Nuance in this instance) for the purposes of command/search/retrieve/present your voice commands.
Pretty neat technology, and one which does have tremendous viability, providing you can control when those data streams of the voices in your room are intended for the Smart TV's attention. Imagine the hilarity as you discuss your favorite sitcom with a friend via your smart phone and the Smart TV starts looking up all instances of the same sitcom to offer to you? Hmm, perhaps not so hilarious.
When queried by media on the privacy issues with their Smart TV, Samsung's response was quite logical - here's what they said:
You can control your Smart TV, and use many of its features, with voice commands.
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.
If you do not enable Voice Recognition, you will not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, although you may be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands.
Hmm, kind of makes sense - if you don't want the Voice Recognition capability to capture what you are saying in front of your Smart TV or the remote control device, then DO NOT ENABLE the voice command capability of the device.
Now all of the above begs the question: What of all of my "smart" devices. As Carly Simon shared in her ballad "We have no secrets,"
We have no secrets
Tell each other most everything now
Carly's lyrics have never been more applicable.
So what to do?
If you are using a smart device (TV, Refrigerator, etc.) and it needs to access the broader internet in order to provide you with the intended results, then you may wish to dig in deeper and determine with whom your information is shared. In Samsung's case, they identified their voice processing partner as Nuance (a most reputable company by any measure). But what of those who don't identify who is processing your data, or what data is captured.
Samsung makes it clear - if you have your voice recognition enabled the Smart TV is in engagement mode and wants to engage and show you how smart it is, after all, according to the good folks at LCDTV Buying Guide, their Smart Hub is the best of all the Smart TV offerings.
Smart TVs are an area where you want to read the manual cover to cover and ensure your settings are at the level of privacy and security which you are comfortable. Be it voice, video, or simply viewing pattern information.
Information has value, understand your value statement. In doing so, you will keep your secrets yours.