Story 2015-02-11 2X0A Samsung, the big brother inside your TV?

Samsung, the big brother inside your TV?

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in security on (#2X0A)
story imageSamsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set. The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature. When the feature is active, such TV sets "listen" to what is said and may share what they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said. Privacy campaigners said the technology smacked of the telescreens, in George Orwell's 1984, which spied on citizens. Samsung has issued a statement that emphasized the voice recognition feature is activated using the TV's remote control.

Should Pipedot readers be concerned? What assurance is there that voice control systems which involve uploading voice commands to remote servers (Siri included) couldn't be used for surveillance covertly, as the FBI started doing with OnStar in General Motors vehicles over a decade ago? Samsung is not the first maker of a smart, net-connected TV to run into problems with the data the set collects. In late 2013, a UK IT consultant found his LG TV was gathering information about his viewing habits.

Today, users of Samsung's Smart TVs are also complaining that advertisements are being inserted into their own videos, without their permission. “Every movie I play, 20-30 minutes in it plays the Pepsi ad. It has happened on 6 movies today.” In a statement, a Samsung spokesperson said that the ad placement in third-party apps was a mistake, and that the issue only affected customers in Australia.
Reply 7 comments

Android Apps (Score: 1)

by bryan@pipedot.org on 2015-02-11 20:15 (#2X0B)

Can Samsung smart TVs run android apps? Or are they stuck with a handful of proprietary apps that come with the device with no chance of future updates?

Re: Android Apps (Score: 2, Informative)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2015-02-11 21:48 (#2X0F)

Samsung uses a proprietary system, but it has an App store and the SDK is available.

I don't trust Samsung at all (Score: 5, Interesting)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2015-02-11 20:42 (#2X0C)

Some time ago I wrote an app for Samsung TVs. It did not run on the TV itself, but connected and streamed content via DLNA to a couple of Samsung TVs. For testing reasons I had several TVs in my net. One of the c, d, e, and f series. At first I tested with only one TV. During during this stage of my development I had several very strange results in my log files, which at first I could not explain. I expected to see only messages of the TV, which I currently used for testing. But actually even switched off (standby) Samsungs send DLNA messages. Not regularly. On average perhaps one DLNA message every 1-2 days. I am not sure about the exact rate.

I cannot say, if there was more than this stray message, i.e. I cannot say if there was some home phoning. Nevertheless, I was (and am) pissed. When I switch a device off, I expect it to be silent. And no, DLNA on Samsungs does not allow to switch them on via a DLNA command over the net. This would be a good explanation and excuse for this behaviour, but.... nope, can't be done this way.

Re: I don't trust Samsung at all (Score: 3, Interesting)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2015-02-12 09:37 (#2YGM)

I think they'd like you to believe this was a technical mistake, like "oops, we shouldn't have activated that API." Rather, it was probably and more likely a strategic/management mistake, as in, "oops, didn't think customers would hate this as vehemently as they did - retreat! We'll ass-rape them some other way!"

I like Samsung hardware, but I can guarantee you I won't be going near a camera-and-microphone enabled smart TV with anything other than a baseball bat and a flamethrower. Who invents this crap up and tries to foist them on the consumer? In the name of "convenience," sure.

I like my TVs dumb, thank you very much. They shouldn't do anything other than display the image some other device sent to them. And then they should bugger off.

Re: I don't trust Samsung at all (Score: 3, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-02-12 13:44 (#2Z01)

I have absolute faith in these smart tvs to only send data back to their servers when the button to acticate voice signals is pressed. I also trust Sony to never package malware with their products.

Re: I don't trust Samsung at all (Score: 1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-02-12 13:46 (#2Z07)

On the bright side now we have one more place to call when we lose our keys. Hi Samsung support! Were you watching today when I arrived home and put down my keys?

Re: I don't trust Samsung at all (Score: 1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-02-12 16:50 (#2ZEG)

I like Samsung hardware, but I can guarantee you I won't be going near a camera-and-microphone enabled smart TV with anything other than a baseball bat and a flamethrower.
I'd advise you to at least also wear clothes in that case. Somebody might be watching.