The exact statement being referred to here is as follows.
“To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. 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.”
Technology may have provided numerous opportunities for adding features targeted at increasing the convenience levels of the users. But have we ever thought even for a moment that if the loopholes in these technologies could be exploited, then we would have put our personal information and data at risk. Operating a television with the use of voice commands might appear to be cool, but in reality, they have opened up a world of problems for customers and a treasure trove of valuable information for the hackers.
The Alleged Security Issues
Let’s understand the scenario here. The voice recognition feature in Samsung’s SmartTV line of products allows users to control the television with voice commands. These commands are redirected to third party entities as this is a crucial part of the data sharing pathway. The cause of concern is that the moment the information in the voice commands is relayed to third parties, it becomes next to impossible to exercise control over it. If hackers were to infiltrate into these third party entities, then they can easily access the information and use it to their advantage.
Television sets are meant for entertainment and are not exclusively designed for maintaining privacy of the user. It is this flaw in the security architecture which makes them vulnerable to malicious attacks. Moreover, without the use of strong encryption for the data transmitted from the television, it would be difficult to maintain the confidentiality. In simple terms, anyone with the right set of technical capabilities and knowhow can turn your television set into an eavesdropping machine.
Obviously, a company like Samsung will not take any outbreak against its services in a casual manner. The company officials released a statement in The Daily Beast where they have assured that Samsung considers the safety of the customers’ information and that adequate safeguards have been put in place to prevent a possible “data-leakage”. The officials also stated that the company does not retain any voice data and it definitely does not sell off such confidential information to anyone.
Samsung’s representatives shared that the voice recognition feature can be toggled (tuned on and off) as per need. This was provided in the product as a safety mechanism wherein customers are more than welcome to keep the voice recognition system deactivated and use the basic features of the SmartTV. An additional layer of security implemented in the product is the flashing of a microphone icon every time the voice recognition feature is used. All of this is good enough when considered theoretically, but when you evaluate it carefully, you will realize that Samsung is practically handing over personal information to anyone who can access it.
Who is this “Third Party”?
I have already made several references to a “third party entity” set up by Samsung. Finally the mystery surrounding this secret third party was cleared and it was revealed that it was none other than Nuance Communications, a leading manufacturer and propagator of voice recognition technology. While the company has shared the identity of the third party, it has still not given an accurate understanding of whether users can delete any voice recordings that may have been left in the system. There is also no firm understanding on how long the voice recordings are kept in the system. As a security measure the termination period should have been defined to avoid any information leakage. However, the company has not made any clarification on the same yet.
If you are not certain about the security of your voice commands and the data being recorded by the system, then you can simply deactivate the feature all-together. For those of you who are literally scared to death over the loss of your “personal information”, you can put a piece of tape over the microphone and also cover the camera that is used for facial recognition. You can also disconnect the internet source and enjoy your favourite flicks on the television.
But if you don’t make use of the value added features for which you have shelled out more money from your wallet, then would the investment be justified? I personally would prefer buying a television that does not have these fancy features and has great viewing quality. What about you? Are you willing to invest more in features which could compromise your privacy? Do share your thoughts.
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