Samsung has confirmed that its smart TV sets are listening to customers’ every word, and the company is warning customers not to speak about personal information while near the TV sets.
Right: 1984 pic.twitter.com/osywjYKV3W
— Parker Higgins (@xor) February 8, 2015
The company revealed that the voice activation feature on its smart TVs will capture all nearby conversations. The TV sets can share the information, including sensitive data, with Samsung as well as third-party services.
Samsung has issued a new statement clarifying how the voice activation feature works. “If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search,” Samsung said in a statement. “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.”
The company added that it does not retain or sell the voice data, but it didn’t name the third party that translates users’ speech, Nuance Communications.
The news follows the case of smart TV-maker Vizio, which has been forced to pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit after the company collected viewing data from its customers and sold it without their permission.
In a press release, the Federal Trade Commission explained that Vizio, beginning in February 2014, used software installed on more than 11 million of its smart TVs to record second-by-second metadata about every show customers watched.
That data—including customers’ sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership status—was then sold to third parties. Vizio marketed the software, called Smart Interactivity, as an innocuous feature that “enables program offers and suggestions” for users.
According to the F.T.C., Vizio didn’t offer any “‘program offers or suggestions’ or ‘program-related information’ for most televisions for more than two years,” and older Vizio televisions that didn’t initially have the Smart Interactivity feature were opted into it.
The F.T.C. suit, filed alongside the attorney general of New Jersey and the director of the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs, alleged that Vizio and its subsidiary, Inscape Services, began selling targeted advertising data to third parties in March 2016.