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Will Big Brother Be Watching You on Your New HD TV?

Written by Gary North on March 26, 2012

A new generation of high definition television sets are hitting the American market now. Samsung’s top-of-the-line sets will include an internally wired HD camera, twin microphones, face tracking, and speech recognition.

The question is: Who will be able to use these features, in addition to you?

While Web cameras and Internet connectivity are not new to HDTVs, their complete integration is, and it’s the always connected camera and microphones, combined with the option of third-party apps (not to mention Samsung’s own software) gives us cause for concern regarding the privacy of TV buyers and their friends and families.

Samsung has not released a privacy policy clarifying what data it is collecting and sharing with regard to the new TV sets. And while there is no current evidence of any particular security hole or untoward behavior by Samsung’s app partners, Samsung has only stated that it “assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable” in the event that a product or service is not “appropriate.”

These are powerful televisions.

These Samsung TVs locate and make note of registered viewers via sophisticated face recognition software. This means if you tell the TV whose faces belong to which users in your family, it personalizes the experience to each recognized family member. If you have friends over, it could log these faces as well.

In addition, the TV listens and responds to specific voice commands. To use the feature, the microphone is active. What concerns us is the integration of both an active camera and microphone. A Samsung representative tells us you can deactivate the voice feature; however this is done via software, not a hard switch like the one you use to turn a room light on or off.

And unlike other TVs, which have cameras and microphones as add-on accessories connected by a single, easily removable USB cable, you can’t just unplug these sensors.

During our demo, unless the face recognition learning feature was activated, there was no indication as to whether the camera (such as a red light) and audio mics are on. And as far as the microphone is concerned the is no way to physically disconnect it or be assured it is not picking up your voice when you don’t intend it to do so.

This raises some questions.

*   Do the televisions send a user ID or the TV’s serial number to the Samsung cloud whenever it has an Internet connection?

*   Does Samsung cross reference a user ID or facial scan to your warranty registration information, such as name, address etc.?

*   Can a person or company listen to you, at will, via the microphone and Internet connection?

*   Does Samsung’s cloud store all this information? How secure is this extremely personal data?

*   Can a hacker intercept this data or view you via the built in camera?

*   Can a third-party app program do any of the above?

*   Exactly what information does the TV send to Samsung or other parties?

*   Does Samsung intend to sell data collected by its Smart TV owners, such as who, what and when one is viewing?

The author contacted Samsung about its privacy policies.

 Weeks have passed since we formally requested answers to these questions from Samsung asking what if any privacy assurances Samsung provides. To date no privacy statement has been furnished to HD Guru or end users. The first models with these features arrived on dealer’s shelves over two weeks ago. All that we’ve been told is that when connecting to the Internet, the TVs first connect to the Samsung cloud, and from there, they connect to the various streaming video services and other apps for activation.

If you think this much is scary, read the entire article. Click the link.


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13 thoughts on “Will Big Brother Be Watching You on Your New HD TV?

  1. SEAN MURRY says:

    i wont be buying any of thier tvs.

  2. Maybe this is the reason Obama is in Korea.
    Check out below who is running Samsung.

  3. No, because I'll not be buying one; however, there are probably other ways to do this. Read "1984" by Orwell.

  4. I'll show Obama things he REALLY doesn't wish to see. SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Smeethow says:

    Why would any one want a TV that can spy on us? I'm sure the news guys would love to here us all yelling at the TV when they tell us more lies. My seven year old TV looks better all the time.

  6. This is why I buy the cheap, dumb, HDTVs and add what features I want.

    Last year I paid around $600 delivered for a highly-rated 50" Panasonic plasma.

    It even includes a few basic apps (Netflix, Amazon VOD, Youtube, etc.) for those who use those services.

  7. Time to learn to "sign" as a way of communication IN ANOTHER ROOM!! Anyone see the movie "Children of Dune", where two women were talking AND signing at the same time. The conversation was on one subject, where the " signing" was on another subject. There are many ways to hide "signing". The thing is, if people are going to be stupid enough to buy these HD television sets with data collection software in them VOLUNTARILY, then they need to learn an alternate form of communication.

  8. They can track you through the apps you got for your plasma TV. Better be careful what you say, b/c tracking is possible through that route.

  9. And you think other TV manufacturers will not include the microphones and cameras in their TVs?

  10. http://www.trunews.com with Rick Wiles.
    The PowerHour with Joyce Riley.

  11. Might be time to start weaning ourselves away from the TV. Personally I find less and less programs worth watching but that may just be me.

  12. horizon3 says:

    SO don't plug the darned thing into the internet, I only plug in my blueray when Sony sends me an email telling me a software update is needed.

  13. What does anyone think the 1996 Millennium Digital Act was for? They can't get a signal from a rooftop antenna that can be monitored from more than 100 feet. By forcing everyone onto cable — which has repeater amplifiers for all signals every 1/4 mile — they can monitor you, living in Los Angeles, from New York City. This was the goal from the outset. It had nothing to do with the public being able to have clearer signals and higher resolution.