Privacy Advocate Group Prods FTC To Investigate Samsung Over Smart TV Issue

By Menchie Mendoza | Mar 01, 2015 12:25 AM EST

Samsung caused quite a stir earlier in February because of the company's privacy policy.

Terms in the privacy policy pointed to how voice commands can be transmitted to a third-party service as part of its Smart TV's Voice Recognition feature. Samsung later on explained that such transmission can only happen when the user pushes a designated button.

However, privacy advocates believe that the voice command feature of the Smart TV violates federal privacy law since the feature allows the TV to collect the users' private communications. The same feature also lets users manipulate the TV channels and volume and even search for programs.

"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 privacy policy states.

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When Samsung explained that its Smart TVs are not, in reality, eavesdropping on its users, the company failed to convince the nonprofit group called the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

EPIC is asking the FTC to investigate Samsung, which EPIC believes should be charged for violating consumers' privacy with the voice recording feature.

"Samsung routinely intercepts and records the private communications of consumers in their homes," wrote EPIC. "Samsung's attempts to disclaim its intrusive surveillance activities by means of a 'privacy notice' do not diminish the harm to American consumers."

As previously reported by Tech Times, another concern over the company's privacy policy centers on the identity of the third party. The policy stated that captured information will be transmitted to a third party when the user activates the TV's Voice Recognition. When Samsung tried to defend its policy, it said that the company "does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties."

That third party is now identified as Nuance. Samsung also asserted that all of the recorded data that it sends to Nuance are encrypted. However, such claim was contested by a computer researcher, prompting EPIC to file an additional complaint.

"Samsung later conceded that the company does not encrypt all the voice recordings it transmits," wrote EPIC. "Samsung also admitted it has not deployed the software necessary to encrypt plaintext transmissions."

Samsung TVs recently made headlines in Australia when a glitch caused muted Pepsi ads to be added into TV shows and films stored on the Plex and Foxtel TV app.

Samsung has not yet issued a statement regarding the complaint.

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