Samsung Smart TV spying

Senator questions Samsung about its eavesdropping Smart TV policy

Senator questions Samsung about its eavesdropping Smart TV policy

The State Column, Tom Sherman

Samsung Smart TV spying

Senator Al Franken asked tough questions of Samsung and LG after reports exposed the companies Smart TVs record and transmit user voice data to third parties.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is investigating the policies and practices surrounding Smart TVs and their ability to record user conversations and transmit them to a third party.

“If such communications are unnecessarily captured along with voice commands, is it possible to extract that data before transmission to a third party?” asked Franken in a letter to Samsung North America CEO, Gregory Lee.

Franken detailed a list of eight questions aimed at determining the scope of the voice recognition technology. Among the topics covered were the ability to turn off the voice recognition software within the TV, who the third parties are that receive the data, whether any third party can “use, sell, share, or retain” information, and how Samsung observes user’s viewing habits and make use of that data. (Full letter to Samsung here)

The two-term senator inked a letter to the LG U.S. President, William Cho, as well, only days after the news broke that buried within Samsung’s privacy policy there was an ominous sentence warning: “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.”

Samsung expressed its explicit support for Franken and his “commitment to consumer privacy” and declared the company is grateful for “the opportunity to respond to his inquiries regarding the voice recognition feature on our Smart TVs,” in an e-mail with PC World.

Samsung has been on the defense over the past week, as consumers and privacy advocates have balked at the idea of a private corporation eavesdropping on them in their home. In a blog post, Samsung has countered by stressing the fact that “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.”

“You may disable Voice Recognition data collection at any time by visiting the ‘settings’ menu,” said Samsung in the post. “However, this may prevent you from using some of the Voice Recognition features.”