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9 questions for Samsung - & Nuance - about privacy

18 Feb 2015 | Rasmus Larsen |

Samsung’s Smart TV privacy policy has been under heavy scrutiny since last week due to concerns over TVs recording private conversations. Samsung answered with some broad statements, but we wanted more specific information. So we asked Samsung some questions and here are the answers.

9 questions Samsung about privacy policies

Our questions and Samsung’s answers are found below in full form. Tomorrow we will share some thoughts on what we can learn from a case like this and several other cases regarding privacy on Smart TVs.

Who specifically is the third party / third parties? How many third parties are involved?
Samsung is working with Nuance a service provider that turns voice into text. (Samsung adds that there is only one third party, Nuance)

Can Samsung specify how, and what people's private data is used for by Nuance?
Voice data is sent to Nuance only when the user press the activation button on the remote control and make search requests, and the transmitted data may be used for evaluation and improvement of the Voice Recognition feature.

Does Samsung believe that it is a responsible approach to transmit sensitive private data to third parties, no matter the technical capabilities of this provider?
The voice recognition function is enabled only when users agree to the separate Samsung Privacy Policy and Terms of Use regarding this function when initially setting up the TV. If a consumer consents and uses the interactive feature (through the remote control), voice data is provided to Nuance, a service provider that turns voice into text, during a requested voice command search. The converted text inquiry is sent to a Samsung server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV. Nuance's privacy notice is also provided when the user has the optional opt in choice presented regarding the interactive voice feature during initial set up of the TV.
In addition, details such as your name, address, etc. are not sent to a third party unless you actively provide such details during the course of the command. For example, if you activate voice control and ask to search your own name and state that is your name, then that data would then go to a third party server, perform the search and return the results.

How long is private data stored at the third party?
The only time voice data is provided to a third party during a search. 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 data is deleted shortly after the question is answered.

Is the collected data used for advertisement or contextual purposes?
Your voice data is not sold to a third party; it is merely used to process the request made for content.

"Hi TV" or the touch of a remote button activates the listening mode. My understanding is that speech then is recorded and transmitted. Is this correct?
If an individual uses a microphone embedded in TV instead of a remote control, the command cannot be transmitted to a server. 'Hi TV' command can be operated only with a microphone embedded in TV, and 'Hi TV' command can be recognized without a network connection. Accordingly, 'Hi TV' command cannot be transmitted to a server. Users can turn off the 'Hi TV' command if they want to.

In addition to the recordings, what is sent forth - IP address, MAC address, information entered into the TV or something else?
For the purpose of processing users’ search requests, device identifiers are transmitted along with voice data.

Can Samsung share an example of a data package that is transmitted?
Samsung does not want to provide an example of a data package.

Nuance’s privacy policy

At the same time we have a privacy policy from Nuance – the third party – which contains the following.

”Certain Nuance Products require you to enter Speech Data in order to use and derive the benefits of the particular product. These Nuance Products collect and process the Speech Data you input into the Nuance Products. Nuance or third parties acting under the direction of Nuance, pursuant to confidentiality agreements, use the Speech Data to develop, tune, enhance, and improve Nuance services and products. Nuance will not use the contents of any Speech Data provided to us through your use of Nuance Products for any purpose except as set forth above. "Speech Data" means the audio files, associated text and transcriptions and log files provided by you hereunder or generated in connection with Nuance Products. Speech Data may include Personal Information.


In addition to what is expressly stated in this Privacy Policy, we may also share your Personal Information with third parties in the following situations:

Nuance Affiliates, Vendors and Suppliers: Nuance works with many affiliated third parties, vendors, distributors, and suppliers. To the extent it is necessary for these groups to provide their products and services to us and provide products and services you have requested, these third parties may have access to or process your Personal Information. Nuance may also sometimes permit our authorized service providers to have access to aggregate statistics about our customers, sales, traffic patterns, and related Website or Application information. These transfers of aggregate statistics do not involve Personal Information or data”.

Draw your own conclusions.

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