Nobles Law Firm

Is Samsung eavesdropping on its customers?

samsung_logo_3d_model_3ds_fbx_obj_blend_dae_34a02ca7-8262-45b1-b957-730c26487bb5If you want to keep up with the latest legal issues surrounding the Internet, the Electronic Foundation Frontier (www.EFF.org) is a pretty good site to bookmark and check regularly.

One issue that the EFF reported earlier this month has to do with Samsung’s latest  SmartTV. That television has a built-in microphone that recognizes voice commands so the user can control certain functions on the television set.

Pretty convenient, huh? Not according to the EFF. The television will collect voice information and forward it to Samsung even when the set is turned off. According to CNN Money, users can opt out of using voice commands, but the television set still records data and sends it to Samsung.

Samsung’s privacy policy warns users that any sensitive information collected by the television will be among the data sent to a third party (the third party and what it does with that information is not identified). The data that is collected from people who opt out of using voice commands remains with Samsung.

Don’t want your information collected and sent anywhere? Samsung’s solution is to not collect your television to the Internet. Uh, doesn’t that sort of defeat the entire purpose of owning a smart television? People get those things to stream Netflix and maybe check on Facebook, but the Samsung SmartTV does all of that and collects data from its owners, too.

That all sounds a bit creepy but it is not very surprising. After all, we have had the technology that would enable devices to essentially spy on us for years.

Remember the hubbub a couple of years ago over the Microsoft Xbox One? Initially, there were plans to record audio and video of users and send that information over the Internet to Microsoft.

Those reports were received poorly. There was such outrage, in fact, that Microsoft backed off of its plans to use the game console to record whatever its owners were up to when in the vicinity of the thing.

Considering how angry consumers were about the potential of Microsoft, the government or others to spy on Xbox One owners it is hard to believe that Samsung was able to release its SmartTV that might be used for the same purposes and people have been comparatively quiet about it.

The subdued reaction to the SmartTV suggests that, perhaps, consumers aren’t so worried about devices recording information about them and sending it somewhere. Perhaps we will see more of this kind of thing in the future.

Hopefully, we will at least know how that information is being used and who is allowed to see it. It might put people’s minds at ease a bit if they at least had that information, but Samsung has been more than a bit vague about that.

This column was authored by Ethan C. Nobles and originally appeared in the Feb. 17, 2015, edition of the Daily Record in Little Rock.

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