Your TV is watching you!

TV is listening and watching you

The internet of things is already here. We got used to our mobiles and tablets transmitting our private data and location to every other App developer out there, but it is about to take a serious turn for the worse for privacy lovers. If mark Zuckerberg thinks that privacy is 'so 70’s' and the new director of GCHQ thinks that privacy has never been “an absolute right”, why would other companies and manufacturers that connect every new device we buy to the net respect those rights?

Hence comes the new Samsung Smart TV. It’s a TV, it’s very smart, and it will listen to private conversations, record them and gracefully share them with third parties.

Isn’t that fantastic?

No. That’s actually horrifying! This is pure Orwellian, or in the words of some commentators on the net: “pretty scary SH*T!”. Writing about the privacy policy for, Michael Price, counsel in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said he was now “terrified” of his new TV, noting that voice recognition is just one feature that could be used to spy on users. The television also logs website visits, has a built-in camera for facial recognition and uses tracking cookies to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.”

“I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customized content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access,”

writes Price, adding that current privacy laws offer little protection against “third party” data.

Price also draws attention to comments made in 2012 by former CIA director David Petraeus, who hailed the “Internet of things” as a transformational boon for “clandestine tradecraft”. In other words, it will soon be easier than ever before to keep tabs on the population since everything they use will be connected to the web, with total disregard for privacy considerations. The spooks won’t have to plant a bug in your home or your vehicle, you will be doing it for them.

Gamers beware!

Samsung however, chose to warn their users. A 46-page privacy policy which is now included in all newly purchased Samsung Smart TVs states that voice recognition technology “may capture voice commands and associated texts” in order to “improve the features” of the system. The policy, a summary of which is also posted online, ominously advises users to,

“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.”

In recording private conversations for potential third party use, Samsung is merely mimicking what games console makers have done for years.

Since its launch in 2010, Microsoft’s X-Box Kinect games device has a video camera and a microphone that records speech. The company informs its users that they “should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features.”
Microsoft may also “access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications.”

These kinds of things make us ask ourselves if the battle for privacy has already been won by spying agencies and big corporations.

What is your opinion on the internet of things? Tell us in the comments!