Owners of new Samsung Smart TVs are being advised to avoid personal conversations near the TVs, according to an article in The Telegraph by Dan Hyde and Victoria Ward. The TV’s voice recognition software could pick up ambient speech and transmit it “to a third party”.
The purpose of the TV’s voice recognition software is to allow users to give the TV voice commands, including having the TV’s software search for information online. It’s an increasingly prominent use of voice biometrics that will only increase as the Internet of Things expands – for example, it will soon appear in automobiles via the Dragon Drive system from Nuance Communications.
In a statement responding to privacy concerns Samsung stated flatly that the company “does not sell voice data to third parties,” and emphasized that the company only transmits this data for the purpose of online searches. Moreover, a spokesperson said that the company’s “TV’s don’t passively record conversations.”
Concerns remain, however. The same spokesperson wasn’t able to say whether that data is used for any other purposes by the third party, and the public is increasingly skeptical about how large companies harvest and use such information. Just last week, the revelation that Facebook had acquired a voice recognition company immediately prompted speculation that it would use the technology to mine user data. The fact is that voice biometrics technology is now capable of such applications, and it will be up to the companies’ employing it to find a balance that their users find acceptable.