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Samsung responds to voice recording concerns

11 Feb 2015 | Rasmus Larsen |

Samsung has responded to reports that its Smart TV are eavesdropping on you. Samsung denies that this is the case and explains how its technology works.

But provides few details

It was the following statement that started everything.

“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.

Samsung provided a short official statement after the first journalists contacted the company, but the story was still picked up by media all over the world. Samsung has now issued a longer version, explaining that the TVs do not automatically record conversations in your living room. It only records audio when you activate the voice search function manually.

Samsung names Nuance Communications as its technology partner and confirms that Nuance – a third party - receives audio recordings in encrypted form. It is unclear what happens with this data at Nuance and Samsung has not confirmed whether there are other third parties.

Samsung’s full statement reads;

Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously and our products are designed with privacy in mind. We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.

Some Samsung Smart TVs offer voice recognitions functions. These functions are enabled only when users agree to the separate Samsung Privacy Policy and Terms of Use regarding this function when initially setting up the TV. Apart from initial setup, users are given the choice to activate or deactivate the voice recognition feature at any time.

Voice recognition takes place in two ways:
  • The first is through an embedded microphone inside the TV set that responds to simple predetermined TV commands such as changing the channel and increasing the volume. Voice data is neither stored nor transmitted in using these predetermined commands.
  • The second microphone, which is inside the remote control, requires interaction with a server because it is used for searching content. A user, for example, can speak into the remote control requesting the search of particular TV programs (ex: “Recommend a good Sci-Fi movie”). This interaction works like most any other voice recognition service available on other products including smartphones and tablets.

    The following language in Samsung’s privacy policy has led to confusion:

    “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.”

    We have clarified our privacy policy to better explain what actually occurs:

    Voice Recognition
    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.

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



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