BUSINESS

Samsung's Spying TVs Raise Ire Of Ann Cavoukian, Ex-Privacy Czar

02/10/2015 02:20 EST | Updated 04/12/2015 05:59 EDT

Former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian has called Samsung’s recording of private conversations through smart TVs “unbelievably outrageous” and has called for tougher regulations on WiFi-enabled technology.

"With Samsung, it's like all of sudden you have to monitor what you should say in your home — the last bastion of privacy, a place that's supposed to be sacrosanct. Are you kidding me?" she said, as quoted by the CBC.

As Ontario’s privacy commissioner from 1997 to 2014, Cavoukian developed the privacy-by-design principles now being used as a global standard for ensuring data protection. Those rules require manufacturers top make privacy the default setting on their products, among other things.

Cavoukian says Canada is falling behind in regulating WiFi-enabled devices, and tighter rules are “crucial.”

The Associated Press reports:

SEOUL, South Korea - Watch what you say in your living room. Samsung's smart TV could be listening. And sharing.

Voice recognition technology in the South Korean company's Internet connected TVs captures and transmits nearby conversations.

The potential for TVs to eavesdrop is revealed in Samsung's smart TV privacy policy available on its website.

"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 policy said.

For the voice command feature to work, the TV listens for speech which is translated by third-party software into text and sent back to the TV as a command. Samsung declined to name the software company. The TV also transmits other information including its unique identifier.

Samsung said data collection is aimed at improving TV performance but users can disable it.

In a statement, the company said it takes consumer privacy "very seriously."

"We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers' personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use."

It is not the first time that smart TVs sparked privacy concerns. In 2013, the owner of a LG Electronics smart TV revealed it was sending information about his viewing habits back to the company without consent and without encrypting data.

LG has also experimented with displaying targeted ads on its smart TVs, which requires collecting and utilizing user data, such as their location, age and gender.

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Link to Samsung's privacy policy for smart TV: http://www.samsung.com/sg/info/privacy/smarttv.html?CID=AFL-hq-mul-0813-11000170

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