Samsung televisions that listen in, the Internet of things and privacy law

February 13, 2015 |

Earlier this week the media became very animated by Samsung’s Smart TV.   As part of its voice recognition facility it has ability to record, store, analyse and share conversations of users within range of the sets. The Samsung TV’s privacy policy makes specific reference to this facility.  The reportage is quite sensational, with one of the most sensible being the AM’s Are new Smart TVs too smart for our own good?

But the emergence of the Internet of Things has long highlighted new and complicated privacy issues.  The Federal Trade Commission highlighted this very recently in its very detailed and useful report, Internet of things; privacy & security in a connected world. The issue is less about snooping TVs but rather the growing ability of many household items to collect data including personal information, process it and for third parties to use it.  This poses a regulatory challenge which is beginning to be considered though far from being met.

The transcript of the AM program provides:

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Technology giant Samsung has begun issuing warnings to its customers to be careful what they say.

It’s part of the privacy policy for its new Smart TVs that includes a voice recognition feature.

Customers are being advised that anything they say around their new telly will be “among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

Nick Grimm reports.

NICK GRIMM: We all know how it feels to have a big set of ears around the house – that child or houseguest who picks up on everything you say, forcing you into furtive whispered conversations, darting glances and the odd shared note.

But now anyone who wants to upgrade to the latest home entertainment gadgetry is being warned to prepare for more inquisitive ears.

As one leading technology manufacturer has now acknowledged, household appliances have advanced to the point where they’re starting to “listen in” on our conversations.

In its privacy policy for its latest smart TVs, Samsung has issued a warning to customers against discussing any personal or sensitive information around the telly when its voice recognition feature is activated.

Here’s how the policy states that warning, as vocalised by another well-known voice recognition application.

SIRI: Please be aware that if you’re 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. Would you like to reply?

NICK GRIMM: Of course anyone with Siri or something similar on their phone knows you have to be careful what you say sometimes.

But what troubles some observers about smart household goods like TVs and other products is the fact that you may not always be sure when your new gadget is listening in.

Jake Goldenfein is from the Centre for Media and Communications Law at the University of Melbourne.

JAKE GOLDENFEIN: I suppose the interesting thing, or the interesting difference between the television and the phone example is that when you’re dictating into a phone you know exactly what you’re doing, whereas with a television you might just be sitting around chatting to your friends and you’re inadvertently activating sort of this voice command technology which will start recording what you’re saying.

NICK GRIMM: Technology experts admit that “big brother” may not be actually paying any attention to what we say just yet, more how we say it.

But where can it go?

Luke Hopewell edits the online technology journal Gizmodo.

LUKE HOPEWELL: When it says don’t discuss personal information in front of your TV, what it’s actually saying is that identifiers of your voice are being sent to third party services when you’re using this television. LG has a very similar clause in its terms and conditions as well.

NICK GRIMM: So what are these third party services doing with our voices? Are they actually keeping recordings of what we’re saying?

LUKE HOPEWELL: They’re not so much keeping recordings so much as keeping data points. Those data points mean what you’re voice inflection sounds like, you know, which words that you said.

For example the Australian accent in particular is very, very difficult to decode. Samsung worked with people at Macquarie University to actually figure out what people were saying before they could bring voice recognition to Australia. Microsoft had similar problems as well.

So it’s about getting a better quality of service. But it really raises questions about what we’re going to do in the smart home in the future. This is the first time that people have actually recognised that, hey, this might be a problem if we start giving all of our information over in our smart home to third party services.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Luke Hopewell, editor of the online technology journal, Gizmodo, and he was speaking to Nick Grimm.

There has been other coverage in Samsung Smart TVs will listen to, capture and transmit your private conversations, company warns with a defensive response by Samsung with Samsung Smart TVs are no spies, company says

The development of car technology highlights both the impact of the internet of things and the convergence of car technology and cyberspace.  With Microsoft, Apple and Google all developing connected car platforms the Cars with black boxes the development of tracking technology is highlighted in Wired’s article Consumers Are in the Connected Car’s Driver Seat in 2015. That theme is picked upon in  Internet of things: Samsung bets big on having your watch talk to your car.  Vehicles are often in the forefront of rapid technological change.  The potential misuse of this data is also real.

The article provides:

Since last year’s CES, the connected car has been a hot topic for the automotive industry and consumers alike. The rise of innovative technology along with better connectivity capabilities have set the stage for an in-car experience that will rival the one you can have in the comfort of your living room.

Car manufacturers and technology companies are racing to provide the best solution that will further usher in the Internet-of-Things with cars as a key part of the infrastructure. In fact, a recent report reveals that, by 2020, 90 percent of vehicles will have built in connectivity.

This year alone, three giants – Microsoft, Google and Apple – have announced their forthcoming “connected car” platforms. Apple already has CarPlay, Google seems to have something in the works with its Open Automotive Alliance, and Microsoft revealed its “Windows for the car.” They all aim to bring the functionality of your mobile device right to your vehicles center consul and we’ll soon find out who takes the cake.

But it’s more than mobile. It’s a large growing market full of infotainment, apps designed for cars, digital diagnostics, monitoring services for new drivers and enhanced navigation systems among other services, which is estimated to grow to nearly $270 billion by 2020. A giant leap from the $47 billion mark it’s at today. It will be interesting to see what developments are in store for the coming year, but it can be safe to expect consumer needs to be at their center.

Privacy and Consumer Controlled Data

Enterprises have disproportionately mined a greater amount of data than they use. But we may see changes as more companies find new ways to use data effectively. This year, mainstream media catapulted “data brokers” into the limelight, allowing consumers to know how their data is being used. It made consumers concerned about companies’ opaque practices, especially about what data is being collected and how it is being used.

There is an obvious disconnect between what marketers believe should be private and what the public is willing to share. In a Lyris survey, only 23 percent of marketers believed their customers were worried about privacy, when in fact 49 percent of consumers said they were “very concerned” about who scrutinizes their online activities and why. Inevitably, future conversations will continue to highlight the clash between consumer privacy and data gatekeepers.

Some argue that neither automakers nor tech companies should even have access to the data. But the worry is counterbalanced by the general concern that the benefit of the connected car will be restricted by the amount of data drivers are willing to disclose. Consequently, we may see consumers opt for a retrofit device that enables car connectivity and data collection with no initial ties to the market.

Leveraging Data for End-User Empowerment

The benefits data will incur for driver will drown the fear stemming from the possible over-share of connected cars and location data. Collected data could not only serve as a source for behavioral and hardware studies for marketers but can also be a way to get unprecedented yet highly intuitive information about the connected vehicle.

To illustrate, connected cars can even tell you how to become a better and safer driver. Monitoring devices can provide insight into bad driving habits by marking when there is rapid acceleration, hard braking and speeding and using that to provide practical advice for the next excursion. Worrying about new drivers could be a thing of the past as parents or guardians can maintain a watchful eye on young driver’s driving behaviors. In the rise of the connected car, 2015 will be about flipping perceptions, utilizing car data to offer meaningful rewards and put consumers in control.

Maintenance and the Connected Car

Additionally, by being able to source knowledge about their own data and driving behavior, connected car drivers are becoming empowered by their car ownership in an entirely new way.

For example, a direct relationship between the dealer and a repair shop will better allow people to maintain and service their car, and data sharing will eventually allow shops and dealerships companies to revolutionize how they interact with their customers. With newfound knowledge of what is plaguing customers and their cars, the mistrust and wariness traditionally associated with mechanics and car repair will subside. Applications will be able to provide you with the best resources and even let your predict what costs to expect before taking any steps to make repairs. In short, automotive ignorance will be a thing of the past.

Cost-Savings Abound

As I’ve noted above, and underlying affect of connected vehicles are the vast cost saving aspects it offers. New technologies will help consumers significantly reduce the costs of owning a car due to better driving, more cautious maintenance, and the management of fuel consumption. Imagine a car that will remember the last route you took to a destination and advise you on alternative, more fuel-efficient routes for the next time you take the trip.

Also, there is now an opportunity for retailers to connect with their customers like never before. If users are willing to share data retailers could offer better deals and cater specifically to demonstrated consumer needs. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as consumer and retailer relationships continue to grow.

The Big Question: Aftermarket vs. OEM?

The connected car is on the rise, and it will become the standard as it permeates the automotive market. But not every new car will be “connected” and some drivers just prefer to integrate technology into their lives at their own pace. For those that prefer and employ older vehicles, the need for interoperability will also be key. Circumstance or preference should not be a deterrent for the future of driving. As a result, interoperable aftermarket devices will become popular as everyone, regardless of car, will look to enjoy the general benefits (cost savings, location sharing, maintenance alerts, etc.) connectivity offers at an accessible price point. Everyone should be able to drive into the future.

One Response to “Samsung televisions that listen in, the Internet of things and privacy law”

  1. Samsung televisions that listen in, the Internet of things and privacy law | Australian Law Blogs

    […] Samsung televisions that listen in, the Internet of things and privacy law […]

Leave a Reply

Verified by MonsterInsights