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Samsung's Privacy Policy Warns Customers Their Smart TVs Are Listening

A man walks past a Samsung smart TV advertisement at a showroom in Seoul in 2011.
Park Ji-Hwan
AFP/Getty Images
A man walks past a Samsung smart TV advertisement at a showroom in Seoul in 2011.

A bit of fine print included in Samsung's privacy policy is drawing comparisons to George Orwell's 1984.

All of Samsung's smart TVs — which take voice commands — come with a warning to consumers that essentially says: Your TV is listening and might be sending what you say to Samsung and a third party responsible for transcribing what you say.

"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 privacy policy says.

The Daily Beast first noticed the fine print last week and now it's made its way across the world.

Parker Higgings, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sent out a tweet, comparing the privacy statement to a passage from 1984:

The BBC reached out to Samsung, which said it takes privacy "very seriously" and wanted customers to make informed decisions about the functionalities they choose to use.

The voice command functionality, it said, is activated using the remote control and owners can chose to disable it.

The BBC adds:

"Samsung said: 'If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.'

"It added that it did not retain voice data or sell the audio being captured. Smart-TV owners would always know if voice activation was turned on because a microphone icon would be visible on the screen, it said."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.