Samsung rewords Orwellian privacy agreement after pressure

After it was revealed that Samsung's SmartTV privacy policy had some surprising language, the company took to its blog to clarify it was not recording private conversations.

Ahn Young-joon/AP/File
A man passes by the Samsung Electronics Co. logos at its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.

After some negative press Monday regarding its SmartTV privacy policy, Samsung went to its blog to clarify that it was not listening to your living room conversations.

Samsung’s SmartTV connects to the Internet and gives the owner the option to use voice commands to do things such as change the channel. The problem arose after taking a closer look at the privacy agreement:

“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.”

Three things immediately stood out: What is my SmartTV recording? When is it recording? And who is this third party?

Samsung addressed this “confusion” on its webpage and reworded the policy to clarify “what actually occurs.”

“Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control,” the company says.

As Samsung’s blog title clearly stated, “Samsung Smart TVs Do Not Monitor Living Room Conversations.”

The company went on to say that there are two microphones involved in the voice command process – one in the TV, which picks up basic commands and does not record; and the second is located in the remote. Samsung clarified that the remote microphone is not in an “always on” state and must be activated by a user for it to begin recording.

Samsung made sure to include in the rephrased policy how to disable the “Voice Recognition data collection” feature. Users can turn it “off” by accessing “settings,” but warned this may prevent customers from getting the full voice control experience. Samsung went on to name the third party provider: Nuance Communications.

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