Orwell’s Vision Marches On – Be Careful With What You Say In Front Of Your Smart TV

Baird's First photographed TV Image - c. 1926

Baird’s First Photographed TV Image c. 1926

Scottish inventor John Logie Baird is principally credited, among others, with the invention of television in 1926.  In 1949 George Orwell published his world-changing novel about a coming super-surveillance state, Nineteen Eighty-Four.  How far have we come toward surrendering all of our privacy since Orwell gave us his warning ?  Pretty far.  The dystopian future Orwell envisioned is in our faces.  Here’s a piece of a ctvnews.ca.com report which should stand the hair up on the back of your neck:

A “smart” TV that listens and responds to your voice commands? Sounds like a nifty idea — until the manufacturer reminds you that your TV is listening to your private conversations too.

Samsung recently unveiled a new line of Internet-connected Smart TVs that can stream customized content and show recommendations. The TVs also allow users to control their set with voice commands.

But what many users may not realize is that the voice recognition system works by transmitting those voice commands to a third-party service that then converts the speech to text.

Uh huh.  And?  Is there more?

Buried in the privacy policy insert that comes with the TV, Samsung reminds users to watch what they say in front of the TV, because their device could be picking up their personal information as well:

“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,” the statement reads.

Users who didn’t take the time to read through every booklet that came with the TV may have missed that fine print. But with several news outlets reporting on the odd warning, Samsung has since released a statement to insist that user information remains safe.

There.  See?  I knew there was nothing to worry about.  User information remains safe.  Samsung says so.

The company says it does not save any of the voice data or sell its information to third parties. The TV simply forwards the data to a server that notes the requested command and then returns the desired content to the TV.

The company has not divulged which third-party company the data is sent to, nor how it ensures that the information remains safe.

Hmm.  I wonder why that is.  The secret third-party stuff.  But the data is safe – right?  A corporation wouldn’t ever lie to us – right?

In a company statement, Samsung said it takes consumer privacy seriously and uses data encryption “to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”

Well, there.  Samsung takes our privacy seriously.  What on earth should we worry about?

The company also notes that users can always deactivate the voice recognition service and use the text feature instead. Or they could simply disconnect the television from their Wi-Fi network altogether.

Or how about we just don’t buy the damned thing in the first place?

Security expert Bruce Schneier says these types of privacy concerns aren’t limited to Smart TVs.

“Whether it’s your TV listening to your voices or your cellphone knowing where you are, or your thermostat knowing who’s in the room, this kind of thing is the future,” Schneier told CTV’s News Channel on Monday.

Adding to the feelings of distrust, Schneier said, is that there is no way to know that these systems are 100-per-cent secure.

“They can be hacked,” he said. “We know again and again that there are vulnerabilities in the system and we’ve seen many times where criminals and government take advantage of this.”

Government?  Take advantage?  No way.

george-orwellThanks to WND.com for the link to the original report.

About John L. Work

John Lloyd Work has taken the detective thriller genre and woven an occasional political thread throughout his books, morphing what was once considered an arena reserved for pure fiction into believable, terrifying, futuristic, true-to-life “faction”. He traveled the uniformed patrolman’s path, answering brutal domestic violence calls, high speed chases, homicides, suicides, armed robberies, breaking up bar fights, and the accompanying sporadic unpredictable moments of terror - which eventually come to all police officers, sometimes when least expected. He gradually absorbed the hard fact that the greatest danger a cop faces comes in the form of day-to-day encounters with emotionally disturbed, highly intoxicated people. Those experiences can wear a cop down, grinding on his own emotions and psyche. Prolonged exposure to the worst of people and people at their worst can soon make him believe that the world is a sewer. That police officer’s reality is a common thread throughout Work’s crime fiction books. Following his graduation from high school, Work studied music and became a professional performer, conductor and teacher. Life made a sudden, unexpected turn when, one afternoon in 1976, his cousin, who eventually became the Chief of the Ontario, California, Police Department, talked him into riding along during a patrol shift. The musician was hooked into becoming a police officer. After working for two years as a reserve officer in Southern California and in Boulder, Colorado, he joined the Longmont, Colorado Police Department. Work served there for seven years, investigating crimes as a patrolman, detective and patrol sergeant. In 1989 he joined the Adams County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office, where he soon learned that locking a criminal up inside a jail or prison does not put him out of business. As a sheriff’s detective he investigated hundreds of crimes, including eleven contract murder conspiracies which originated “inside the walls”. While serving on the Adams County North Metro Gang Task Force and as a member of the Colorado Security Threat Intelligence Network Group (STING), Work designed a seminar on how a criminal’s mind formulates his victim selection strategy. Over a period of six years he taught that class in sheriff’s academies and colleges throughout Colorado. He saw the world of crime both inside the walls and out on the streets. His final experiences in the criminal law field were with the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office, where for nearly two years he investigated felonies from the defense side of the Courtroom. Twenty-two years of observing human nature at its worst, combined with watching some profound changes in America’s culture and political institutions, provided plenty of material for his first three books. A self-published author, he just finished writing his tenth thriller.
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