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.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.