“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,” Samsung’s policy reads.
What’s more? If this technology makes you nervous and you attempt to interfere, you could be facing felony charges under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law prohibits tampering with devices that help prevent illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted material.
In addition to smart TVs, things like Siri, FitBit, and GPS navigation systems are constantly collecting data about their user’s whereabouts and habits—transmitting that information back to the company that created and maintains the device. Some of these devices even have cameras enabled with facial recognition technology, recording images of users—another hidden agreement in the paper manual that comes with a TV. This privacy manual outlines collection and recording policies, giving the company the legal wherewithal to claim the user gave consent by using the device anyway. Additionally, information recorded and collected by a smart TV is considered a third-party business record.
How to be careful?
“You get to either use all these really nifty new pieces of technology that you bought and paid for, or you can have your privacy,” Price comments. “But right now, it doesn’t seem like we can have it both ways. That’s what has to change.”
Of course, some companies have engaged in legal battles with their customers over privacy issues. The Federal Trade Commission confirmed that Vizio used 11 million televisions to spy on its customers and ultimately agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle the case. The lawsuit was accused of using their televisions to secretly collect and sell data about its customer’s locations, demographics and viewing habits. The FTC notes this is just one example of how our appliances could be sending information you wouldn’t ordinarily give away to companies.
Vizio neither confirmed nor denied wrongdoing. The manufacturer makes us 20 percent of the U.S. market, making about 1 in 5 TVs sold in the country last year. The lawsuit alleges Vizio was literally watching its viewers—capturing “second-by-second” information about what people viewed on its TVs. The company was also accused of linking demographic information to the data and selling it—including information about the users’ sex, age, and income. Vizio claims that they only used viewing data “to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.”
What do you think? Do you trust your smart TV?