spyingSmart devices are wonderful. The latest smart phones all have virtual assistants you can just ask questions rather than bothering with the whole typing thing. That’s both fantastic and convenient. The day’s coming when keyboards will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

It’s not just smartphones, either. Television manufacturers have done a remarkable job at reinventing themselves and staying relevant in the world of handheld devices. After all, who wants to watch the latest blockbuster movie on a tiny, five-inch screen? TVs have progressed to the point where the remote is no longer necessary. From the comfort of your sofa, you can simply tell your TV what channel you want it to go to, or which app to launch, and it does it. Samsung and all the other major television manufacturers have incorporated that feature into their latest sets, and it has been widely applauded.

What’s the Downside?

The downside is simply this: In order to understand what those voice commands mean, a computer has to digitally record, then interpret them. You read that correctly. It makes a digital copy of your spoken words. All of them. Understand that all smart TVs work exactly the same way. This exact feature is coming to the fore because Samsung made it a point to mention it specifically in their privacy policy.
How many times have you had a private, personal conversation with someone while watching TV? If you stop and think about it, you’ll probably come to the realization that it happens more often than you first thought. The TV has become such a fixture in our lives that we don’t even think about it, and why should we? For decades, our TV’s were just passive boxes that dutifully displayed the images we wanted. The whole idea of a “smart TV” is still somewhat alien to us, and we’re struggling to adapt with this new concept.
What it means for consumers is that the company that owns the TV is digitizing every word you say while you’re within “earshot” of the set. According to the Samsung privacy policy, all your spoken words are shipped off to a third party, and that party converts them to text. The question then becomes, “what does that third party do with all that data?” That’s an excellent question, and nobody really seems to know.
Of course, as Samsung says, you can avoid all this simply by turning off the voice feature of your “smart TV,” but then you’re in the somewhat-troubling situation of having paid a premium for a smart set, only to immediately dumb it back down. If that was your plan, you could have just saved some money and an extra step by not buying the smart TV in the first place. While this is a “solution,” it’s not really a solution. All of this to say, be careful what you say around your Smart TV. You really don’t know who’s listening, or what they’re doing with your words.

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