Samsung Warns Customers To Think Twice About What They Say Near Smart TVs

SamsungBy Jake Anderson

In a troubling new development in the domestic consumer surveillance debate, an investigation into Samsung Smart TVs has revealed that user voice commands are recorded, stored, and transmitted to a third party. The company even warns customers not to discuss personal or sensitive information within earshot of the device.

This is in stark contrast to previous claims by tech manufacturers, like PlayStation, who vehemently deny their devices record personal information, despite evidence to the contrary, including news that hackers can gain access to unencrypted streams of credit card information.

The new Samsung controversy stems from the discovery of a single haunting statement in the company’s “privacy policy,” which states:

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.

This sparked a back and forth between the Daily Beast and Samsung regarding not only consumer privacy but also security concerns. If our conversations are “captured and transmitted,” eavesdropping hackers may be able to use our “personal or other sensitive information” for identity theft or any number of nefarious purposes.

There is also the concern that such information could be turned over to law enforcement or government agencies. With the revelation of the PRISM program — by which the NSA collected data from Microsoft, Google, and Facebook — and other such NSA spying programs, neither the government nor the private sector has the benefit of the doubt in claiming tech companies are not conscripted into divulging sensitive consumer info under the auspices of national security.

Michael Price, counsel in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, stated:

I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customized content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access.

Responding to the controversy, Samsung updated its privacy policy, named its third party partner, and issued the following statement:

Voice recognition, which allows the user to control the TV using voice commands, is a Samsung Smart TV feature, which can be activated or deactivated by the user. The TV owner can also disconnect the TV from the Wi-Fi network.

Under still more pressure, Samsung named its third-party affiliate, Nuance Communications. In a statement to Anti-Media, Nuance said:

Samsung is a Nuance customer. The data that Nuance collects is speech data. Nuance respects the privacy of its users in its use of speech data. Our use of such data is for the development and improvement of our voice recognition and natural language understanding technologies. As outlined in our privacy policy, third parties work under contract with Nuance, pursuant to confidentiality agreements, to help Nuance tailor and deliver the speech recognition and natural language service, and to help Nuance develop, tune, enhance, and improve its products and services.

We do not sell that speech data for marketing or advertising. Nuance does not have a relationship with government agencies to turn over consumer data…..There is no intention to trace these samples to specific people or users.

Nuance’s Wikipedia page mentions that the company maintains a small division for government and military system development, but that is not confirmed at this time.

Despite protestations from these companies that our voice command data is not being traced to specific users or, worse, stored for use by government or law enforcement agencies, it seems that when it comes to constitutional civil liberties, the end zone keeps getting pushed further and further down the field.

For years, technologists and smart device enthusiasts claimed webcam and voice recording devices did not store our information. While Samsung may be telling the truth about the use of that data, there are countless companies integrating smart technology who may not be using proper encryption methods and may have varying contractual obligations to government or law enforcement.

Is it really safe for us to assume that the now exceedingly evident symbiotic relationship between multinational corporations and government agencies does not still include a revolving door for the sharing of sensitive consumer data?

This article (Samsung Warns Customers To Think Twice About What They Say Near Smart TVs) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Jake Anderson and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email

Jake Anderson joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in April of 2015. His topics of interest include social justice, science, corporatocracy, and dystopian science fiction. He currently resides in Escondido, California.


    What’s with the pink lips on someone with brown skin? Weird!

  • gypsearose

    As much as I hate surveillance, have to say if people are so damn lazy they have to talk to their TV instead of pushing a button to get what they want……….well they kinda get what they deserve.Pretty soon they will want toilets that wipe their butts.

    • I.M. Pistoff

      The toilets already exist.

    • Donald Johnson

      They make those already. They will spray a little water on first.

      • gypsearose

        I know they have spray toilets but I don’t think they wipe.So you can compare a
        sprayer/remote that sprays water/voice command that will send you voice to a 3rd party/wiper that will report your stool composition……..good way to find out who is using drugs.

    • DarkEyes

      That is the comparable to the conversations that all our conversations are being monitored by many “Heinous Corporations” to say “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”.
      This is utterly nonsensical, not constitutional (if there is a written one of course).
      It is taking away all your private security and privacy. The State is with you 24 Hours, 7 Days a week etc.
      Do not buy or stop buying all these vicious devices. It only deserves the State to undermine us more and more every day.
      There is no excuses for this “crap philosophy”.

  • vladilyich

    Even a warrant should not be sufficient to override the Constitution and force a corporations toi cause us to self-incriminate ourselves by what was a private conversation. Were I a CEO of a corporation that held this information, I would have to tell any court to stick it as they are out of line.

    • Donald Johnson

      I agree, but do you know where they would stick you? In JAIL…

  • Dirty_Martini

    Even worse, Nuance owns Dragon Naturally Speaking….. the voice-to-text software you use on your home computers and cell phones. Many journalists rely on this and similar softwares….

  • Dirty_Martini

    SOLUTION: Don’t buy their products. You don’t need your bedroom TV set recording you during intimate moments…..

    • Robin Raven

      It’s devilishly more than just peeping tom-ish… when your honey yells, “Oh god!” they’ll think you’re a religious nut and put your name on the potential suspect list called “Religious Fundamentalists.” I’d LOL this, but it’s not all that funny.

    • Problem is… Even some non-smart TVs have these features. Even other technologies have these features some of which use unprotected wifi networks to connect to without a user ever consenting to it. It goes much deeper than just not buying the product. It’s in basic appliances that don’t even need voice related utility.

    • James Peters

      I would imagine most new sets have listening and/or watching devices build-in to them and when your old TV breaks down then what can you do?

    • DonDong

      Yeah, especially without the video.

  • This is a rehash of the original story, which was based on the reading of the multi-screen TOS agreement by a dedicated reporter. The privacy policy is nothing more than further covering of their butt by Samsung, who can say that they are thoroughly disclaimered. Nuance is probably telling the truth, since they have no interest in the content or the source in the process of providing the service that they do.
    Unmentioned in all of this is the fact that many devices are used to eavesdrop on their owners. The earliest case of this was tower computers that had microphones installed on their motherboards, ostensibly to support voice response and noise cancellation systems.

  • drbhelthi

    My TV is for our usage and enjoyment, and none of my family were either hired or solicited to contribute to any of the purposes for which our voices might be recorded. Unless owners of smart TVs are aware of and receive compensation, this feature should be turned off, and for sure, the harmful WIFI feature should be turned off.

  • John Cook

    When I was a kid, 50 years ago, some people claimed that tv’s already did this, like in 1984. I didn’t believe them then but I do now. One thing is clear, if they are not doing it now they will in the near future, and voice recognition will only get better.

  • No Bull Nonofit

    What people should know is regardless of where we live the spy agencies are watching us using smart phones, computers, listening posts and tvs. It is undeniable now that we in western controlled lands including israel, usa, europe and other sympathetic and collonial outposts are living in a hidden dictatorship. The illusion of free choice during election time, divide and conquere along with the media are used to persuade us we are free people. When the 1% control the rest to our detriment how can we be free?

    • Brett

      Good post…

  • MindBootyandSoul

    good info….good article

  • littljo

    I’m sure that all of the manufacturers are doing this. I’m sure that chips have burned in code that reports back.
    Nice of samsung to say they do this – now will they publish how do terminate the program.

  • cuba_pete

    1. The only way to really know if your WiFi is off or if your electronic devices aren’t doing what you don’t want them to do is to check for yourself, or have tests done by someone you trust.

    2. Trust No One

  • danielholeman

    Lets all be afraid!!!!
    Can I share some things to fear too?

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