After device owners and media outlets began questioning Samsung's vague privacy policy related to its Smart TVs, the company revised the policy to further clarify.
After device owners and media outlets began questioning Samsung's vague privacy policy related to its Smart TVs, the company revised the policy to further clarify.

Nearly two weeks after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued security recommendations for Internet of Things (IoT) device makers, Samsung is bearing the brunt of consumer anger over an ambiguous privacy policy related to its Smart TVs.

The South Korean company's privacy policy captured the attention of multiple media outlets over the weekend because of its vague wording about the TVs' Voice Recognition feature. “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 original policy stated.

After much hoopla surrounding the unnamed third party and its collection of user data, Samsung revised its policy on Tuesday to clarify. If voice recognition is enabled, the company wrote, then some interactive voice commands, as well as device information, including device identifiers, are sent to a third-party service party, which, at this time, is Nuance Communications, Inc.

Voice commands are then converted into text in order to provide the Voice Recognition features.

“In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features,” the company wrote. “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.”

Furthermore, voice recognition data collection can be disabled through the “settings” menu, although it will prevent users from using some of the Voice Recognition features.

The updated policy and chance to opt out of third-party data collection might have put some TV owners' minds at ease; however, Cameron Camp, security researcher, ESET, noted in an email to SCMagazine.com that Samsung could have more in mind than just converting users' voices to text.

“They're also likely interested in the word/request frequency to know what people are most interested in,” he wrote. “But there are other vocal indicators which can infer what a user may be doing, (such as) breathing heavily from a workout mostly in the morning, etc.”

Ultimately, however, TV owners must decide what they're willing to risk to be able to use Voice Recognition, Camp said.

“I think you can get really sensational about it, but lots of people are providing lots of information free to get some perceived benefit,” he said.” If the product is free, you're the product.”

In a statement to SCMagazine.com, a Samsung spokesperson said: “Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously. In all of our Smart TVs we employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers' personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”