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Samsung: We have improved security & privacy on TVs

25 Aug 2015 | Rasmus Larsen |

Earlier this year, Samsung was caught lying when they told everyone that voice recordings from living rooms around the world were sent in “encrypted” form to third parties. Global media picked up on the case, and Samsung now takes action. The company is promising that security and privacy have been improved significantly in 2015 TVs running Tizen.

Security in 2015 Tizen TVs

The modern “Smart TV” is connected to the home network with access to files. It can record speech in your living room and can store personal information about users. It is paramount that security and privacy concerns have been integrated into the design from the beginning.

Samsung has published a long blog post on its official company blog to describe how it has improved security in its 2015 Tizen-based TVs. Security now revolves around these five principles:

In Samsung’s own words:

Privacy by Design: Samsung Smart TVs incorporate and embed privacy as a core component directly into all of our systems and services at the onset, not as an afterthought. The aim is to make sure that we are doing everything we can to be proactive, and not reactive, with respect to data and information, and to make sure that our consumers feel comfortable
End-to-End Security: Strong security measures are the backbone of privacy and data protection, and as such, we provide topnotch security throughout the Smart TV experience, from an administrative, to technical, to physical. This is done to safeguard our end-users against security risks, including but not limited to loss or unauthorized access and destruction, use, modification or disclosure of data/information. If at any time there is a potential vulnerability identified, Samsung will act promptly to investigate and resolve the issue in order to fully secure consumers’ personal data.
Visibility and Transparency: We know that it is in everyone’s best interests for our consumers to be fully informed and educated about our privacy practices. Samsung always aims to provide open disclosure of our privacy practices so that we can assure our loyal consumers that products and services they use are safe and secure.
User-Centric: Our Samsung Smart TVs are designed to optimize interests of the user in its offerings. We know that TV owners have a choice when purchasing their Smart TVs, and we want to respect that choice and ensure that the protection of privacy is part of this decision. Therefore, legitimate interests and objectives are accommodated, rather than making unnecessary trade-offs.
Accountability: As the world’s largest technology company, we have many touch points with consumers throughout the day. We believe that ultimately we are accountable for our privacy practices, not our users. To that end, we feel that data protection is our responsibility, not because it may be legally mandated, but rather because it is the right thing to do.

Addresses voice recording concerns

In the blog post, Samsung addresses the voice recording case that went on to become a PR nightmare for the company earlier this year. Samsung’s pre-2015 TVs can record dialogue from your living room and will transmit it in unencrypted form to a third-party over the internet, for everyone to hear (if they want to). Samsung ensures us that its new TVs now encrypt recordings but that the files are still sent to a third party partner - most likely Nuance. Nuance's privacy policy, however, reveals that data sent by partners (for example Samsung) can be shared with other partners.

Samsung TV security

Samsung’s blog posts claims that its new TVs have "Privacy by Design" but earlier this year this point was contradicted by Consumer Reports who found that you can expect very little privacy when watching TV. Everything you watch - movies, TV, streaming, even home video recordings - is being analyzed by using so-called ACR (automatic content recognition) systems. Consumer Reports says that Samsung, LG and Vizio have used ACR systems in the US for several years. Vizio will continue to use the practice. In February, LG told Consumer Reports that its webOS-based TVs do not use ACR. It is unclear whether Samsung still uses ACR in its 2015 TVs with Tizen.

In the document, Samsung also explains how it has implemented "triple security structure" and how it detects phishing attacks.

Samsung TV security

The new security features only apply to the 2015 Samsung TVs.

It is great to see that Samsung has begun to take security and privacy on TVs seriously. However, a single blog post is hardly enough to win back everyone. Trust is built over time.

Follow the link to read Samsung's full blog post on the matter.

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