A Very Slippery Slope: Yes, Your Samsung Smart TV Can Listen To Your Private Conversations

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

The biggest story in the tech world today is the revelation that Samsung’s Smart TV can and will listen to your conversations, and will share the details with a third party. Yes, you read that right. Here’s the actual language from the privacy policy itself:

“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.”

Naturally, this has freaked people out and led to multiple comparisons to 1984 and the ubiquitous Big Brother. It was framed exceptionally well by EFF activist Parker Higgins in the following tweet:

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.21.39 AM

While the privacy policy statement is disturbing in its own right, the extent of how creepy it is has to do with the fact that this information will be shared with a “third party.” This begs the question, who is this third party? Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has some thoughts. From the Daily Beast:

Judging by the privacy policy, it seems Samsung is collecting voice commands mostly to improve the TV’s performance. “It looks like they are using a third-party service to convert speech to text, so that’s most of what is being disclosed here,” said Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

 

But, said McSherry, “If I were the customer, I might like to know who that third party was, and I’d definitely like to know whether my words were being transmitted in a secure form.” If the transmission is not encrypted, a SmartHacker could conceivably turn your TV into an eavesdropping device.

After reading this, I have two concerns. First, there’s the point outlined by McSherry about the vulnerability to hackers. So even if we can be assured that Samsung and the third party isn’t up to anything nasty, is the entire process secure enough to protect ourselves from hackers, or an intelligence agency like the NSA? I have my doubts.

Beyond this, there is an equally important concern regarding how this trend might progress into the future, and how it will future erode personal privacy if we don’t address it now.

Take Facebook for example. In its early days it was a seemingly benign, efficient and enjoyable way to stay in touch with friends and reconnect with olds ones. It lured in over a billion users and then essentially decided to turn on all of them without really ever letting anyone know in order to make an incredible amount of money. I’ve discussed some examples of this on Liberty Blitzkrieg on many occasions (links at the end), but most recently I highlighted an incredibly important and powerful article by Salim Varani, in the post: A Very Disturbing and Powerful Post – “Get Your Loved Ones Off Facebook”. Here’s an excerpt:

Facebook doesn’t keep any of your data safe or anonymous, no matter how much you lock down your privacy settings. Those are all a decoy. There are very serious privacy breaches, like selling your product endorsement to advertisers and politicianstracking everything you read on the internet, or using data from your friends to learn private things about you – they have no off switch.

 

Facebook’s blocks posts based on political content it doesn’t like. They blocked posts about Fergusson and other political protests. When Zuckerberg alledgedly went a bit nuts and banned the word “privacy” from meetings at Facebook, it was also blocked from any Facebook post. You just got an error message about “inappropriate content”. Yeah, uh huh. Inappropriate for who?

 

If you’ve ever used Facebook contact sync, or used Facebook on your mobile phone, Facebook took your complete contact list. Real names, phone numbers, addresses, emails, everything. They then use that to create “shadow profiles” of the people you know who aren’t on Facebook. Non Facebook users often see this in action, in the form of emails to them from Facebook, containing their personal information. Facebook users can see this when they upload a picture of a non-Facebook user, and they’re automatically tagged. My friend’s not on Facebook, but since me and a few friends used Facebook on our phones, Facebook has his name and contact information, plus knows who his friends are because it sees him in their address book and calling records.

 

That’s even scarier because Facebook is used heavily for political advertising, and product endorsements. People know I raised money for kids with cancer before, so they might not be surprised if they see an ad where I’m endorsing a Christian outreach programme poor kids in Africa. But I categorically only support programmes that don’t have religious allegiances, since they’re known to bias their support to people who convert. Worse, a lot of people might assume things about my religious beliefs based on these false endorsements. Don’t even get me started on all the hypey startup stuff I don’t condone!

Bet you didn’t think that this is what Facebook would become when you first joined, did you? But this is indeed what it has become, and now that you’re hooked you can cut the cord. Like with drug dealers, “the first one’s always free.” If you haven’t read Salim’s article in full, I strongly suggest you do.

Now back to the original Daily Beast article for some more thoughts on the matter…

Samsung’s privacy policy notes that in addition to voice commands being transmitted, information about your device, “including device identifiers,” may also be beamed over the Internet to the third-party service, “or to the extent necessary to provide Voice Recognition features to you.”

 

McSherry called that bit of qualifying language “worrisome.”

 

“Samsung may just be giving itself some wiggle room as the service evolves, but that language could be interpreted pretty broadly,” she said.

This is my key concern. Although it might be completely benign right now, that in no way, shape or form means it will remain that way.  In fact, once everyone is hooked on SmartTVs and forgets about this whole hubbub, these companies could eagerly turn around and sell all of your private conversation details to advertisers or worse. By then, it might be too late for you to let go.

*  *  *

For related articles, see:

A Very Disturbing and Powerful Post – “Get Your Loved Ones Off Facebook”

Meet the 77th Battalion – The British Army is Mobilizing 1,500 “Facebook Warriors” to Spread Disinformation

Freedom of Speech? Boston Mayor Bans Bad Mouthing of Olympics, as Facebook Will Filter Out “Fake News”

Why You Should Think Twice Before Using Facebook’s Messenger App

Was the Department of Defense Behind Facebook’s Controversial Manipulation Study?

This Man’s $600,000 Facebook Disaster is a Warning For All Small Businesses

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Jack of All Trades's picture

Skynet needs to determine who its enemies are . . .

freewolf7's picture

You don't need to be worried, unless you're doing something wrong.

ersatz007's picture

Then I guess you won't mind sending me the usernames and passwords for your email accounts.

knukles's picture

Shit like this's been going on for a long long time.  Nuffin' new.  Just now breaks out into the MSM
One more time:   If it's connected to the ether-space, they own it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0xm-572v0s#t=11

Supernova Born's picture

Scream "Fuck Obama" while holding a bag of unpopped microwave popcorn.

You'll see.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Just wait until your underwear informs the NSA you are now a national security risk.

UselessEater's picture

LOL, needed a giggle cheers New Game!!

Stackers's picture

You should read the actual website page from Samsung. Voice recording is only the tip of the iceberg.

http://www.samsung.com/sg/info/privacy/smarttv.html

 

It also has facial recognition features, IP address collecting,  ....

  1. Kids Services
    1. SmartTV services may make available educational videos and other content appropriate for children, but we do not knowingly collect any personal information from children without parental consent, unless permitted by law.
Arnold's picture

Follow the net neutrality road........................

Follow the net neutrality road........................

 

Follow follow follow follow

Follow the net neutrality road........................

 

winchester's picture
winchester (not verified) Arnold Feb 10, 2015 7:44 AM

explain to me how the fuck a wifi tv can go spy out of the home if it does not have acces to router wpa 2 keycode, smartass..

Ying-Yang's picture

If you are not doing anything.... no worries.

People that say this have been brainwashed. Saying this puts you into the catagory of sheeple.

No worries? When your bank account has been drained, your house broken into, your children followed when they walk home from school, your cell phone receives spam calls, you are pulled aside by TSA and you think you were not doing anything, you are a poorly educated person.

You will raise poorly educated children, God help you. I truly hope you wise up before something bad cripples your family or others around you, do to your ignorance of basic dignity, security and freedom.

No worries? Yes, I worry you are the problem when you state this. Get the hell away from me and my family.

StandardDeviant's picture

"Self-enslavement" is a good nickname for someone who is completely enslaved by his singular, obsessive fixation.  Please, seek help.

mkkby's picture

Next up -- free TV for everyone courtesy of your friends at NSA and homeland security.

roadhazard's picture

If you want to TURN ON voice recognition then you deserve what you get. They are flat out telling you what is going to happen. Buyer beware.

The9thDoctor's picture

The sad part is, is that no one is going to do anything about it.

A relatively small handful of people will whine about this intrusive technology on some blogs, but no one will actually do anything about it.

After Prism was revealed by Snowden, there was some "outrage" in the blogosphere and some meme pics posted on FarceBook, and 2 weeks later everyone forgot about it, and went back to contributing their lives to that 21st Century Stasi-style collection site.

Insanity Wolf's picture

No one is going to do anything about it? 

Does ass-raping Samsun directors count for anything?

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Well, I did something about it. I threw out my TV years ago. Sadly someday I'm just going to have to face dropping the internet as well, but considering how many lists I'm on already does it really matter?

Miffed

bullchit's picture

Buy a camera/mic free Moniter too. They're cheaper. 27in, under $100.
Windows 8 sp1 don't like them though.
They might not even be safe.... what a fucking world. 

TheEndIsNear's picture

The solution is simple: Don't connect your TV to the Internet.

Alvin Fernald's picture

Not having a tv is a better solution.

Flagit's picture

I bought a tablet last year in an attempt to better my posture, as it seems I always sit on the edge of my chair while reading the web.

By tapping the search bar at the top that contains a mic icon, you can speak your question or search query and it converts your voice to text. So here I am, having a conversation with someone and did not realize my thumb had tapped the mic icon while the tablet sat in my lap. Two minutes later I glance down and my tablet is typing out each and every word I had just spoken.

bullchit's picture

"We need a urine specimen, a stool specimen and a sperm count."
Here's my knickers....

 

Ginsengbull's picture

Wow, thanks SB.

 

I have no Idea how that works, but it's a real nice hack.

 

Not even any unpopped kernels.

 

Now this darn monitor is acting up again.

Bangalore Torpedo's picture
Bangalore Torpedo (not verified) knukles Feb 9, 2015 9:42 PM

Yep...dum dum murica just can't get it.  If it has a wireless connection, you've given the entire world a view to your living room porno set. 

UselessEater's picture

I'm not sure why you got dum dum votes, I'm guessing you have smart wireless tech in your home town.

I'm dum dum envious A-Hat.

KnuckleDragger-X's picture

There's a damned good reason I don't own anything 'smart'. I know from direct experience having done contracts for computer security work is Dilbert's pointy haired boss is smarter than the average corporate executive and without the porn habit....

nmewn's picture

Turn on, tune in, drop out baby ;-)

Ignatius's picture

One answer to this 'new age' might be to take up old drug habits.

logicalman's picture

Been online since 1992.

I always assumed that if I could access another computer remotely, the same applied to mine.

As for TV, why the fuck would you buy one?

Offer me one for free and I'll pass.

 

GeezerGeek's picture

No one should overlook the fact that those baby monitors sold everywhere broadcast wireless signals, too. I showed a neighbor how easy it was for others to intercept the signal and see what was going on in his house. Those wireless IP cameras on some surveillance systems have a similar vulnerability. Privacy is so early-20th century.

Just wait until the Internet of Things includes your refrigerators and toilets. They'll know your input and output and tell both Michael and your doctor if you don't eat properly.

ZerOhead's picture

Brilliant!

 

Maybe Samsung should spin this turd 180 and launch an "At Samsung we listen to our customers!" and "At Samsung we are always ahead of the times" feel-good campaign offensives. Some nice music... an endorsement from Bono... who knows... they could come out of this smelling like a rose.

A Lunatic's picture

They already smell like a rose because the average useless eater doesn't give a shit. FYI, The newer TV's will also feature a convex screen, allowing for a better field of view into your living room for our overlords. Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself as that story has yet to be mainstreamed.......

new game's picture

if it can hear, what can it see? can it deductively reason what is right for me? ah, never mind it's already doing that...

A Lunatic's picture

As a matter of fact this technology exists in part for targeted advertising based on the conversations you are having in the "privacy" of your own living room......

ZerOhead's picture

Wow

I guess it will have do do until they can get convince everyone to wire themselves up to wireless bodycams

A Lunatic's picture

TPTB have only begun to plumb the depths of evil. People need to wake the hell up.......

Ignatius's picture

In the meantime, stand next to your Samsung and fart loudly (if a Beano mailer arrives you can mark this one "confirmed").

The9thDoctor's picture

Xbox Kinect is even more intrusive than this Samsung TV and sheeple lined up to buy them on Black Friday.

Kinect sees your whole bedroom and shares the realtime stream with third parties.

GeezerGeek's picture

The games you play in the bedroom shouldn't need an XBox, so move the XBox elsewhere. Get with it!

TeethVillage88s's picture

Notice, the Elites are excluded from any Domestic Spying, Airport Frisking of their Kids and women by TSA, given Diplomatic Immunity from Customs, Given Immunity from Taxes and Banking Examination, how they are never found to be running Slave Labor for their factories, and how they pay less taxes than all the rest of the people by percentage even though they have all the legal angles for tax loop holes and off shore Trust Accounts.

It's good to be the King, the bankers, the Elite, the Royal, the Diplomats, and the Big Private Executives.

Neo-Fuedalism anyone?

Hacienda System?

Like being a Peon? Who is your Patron? You need to know if you want to petition for Relief.

Ginsengbull's picture

Surrender to your Kings.

 

Pledge fealty, that you may live another day.

drendebe10's picture

Fukem... let em eat azz burgers with the luar in chief fudgepacker 

mendolover's picture

It's a real bummer watching all these elite wannabes scratching and clawing their way to the top all for naught.  Like our freshman senator Chris Murphy from CT.  Poor guy went all the way to Ukraine with his nose up McCain's pooper and didn't even know he was shaking hands with Nazis.  Wonder what they have on him.  Must be really good.

matinee55's picture

boy are you wrong, but you are needed to bring down this country for big brother