Samsung Denies Smart TV Snooping

Samsung's smart TVs will listen in on you, if you let them, but there doesn't appear to be any nefarious purpose behind it. Although the voice recognition software on Samsung smart TVs does indeed listen in on what you say and transmit data to a third party, the company claims it does so in order to improve the software, not to glean any personal information.

Samsung clarified its smart TV privacy policy on the Samsung Tomorrow official blog, where it explained that it has revised its language in order to alleviate customer concerns. The South Korean electronics manufacturer has been under fire since last week, when alert Reddit users pointed out an extremely broad and potentially troubling clause in its privacy policy. The phrasing suggested that Samsung could listen in on whatever you said and share that data with third parties, so long as you activated voice recognition.

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As it turns out, Samsung does not appear to be doing anything untoward with the gathered voice data. At present, the company is sharing it with Nuance Communications, Inc., a company that specializes in speech recognition software. When the company monitors your voice, it does so with the intention of making speech patterns more recognizable.

The company also clarified that it does not eavesdrop on users, but only collects data when a user is speaking directly into the microphone for a search or command function. How exactly the company differentiates commands from idle conversation is not clear, but volume and keywords likely factor into the equation.

As before, you can still disable voice recognition entirely in the settings menu. However, this means that your ability to control your smart TV with your voice will be severely limited.

Speaking with Samsung last week, Tom's Guide determined that although the company collects data for third parties, it does not sell consumer data. Furthermore, Nuance Communications is a far cry from the NSA or advertisers. Still, if the data collection makes you uncomfortable, disable the functionality — or else just be very, very quiet while watching TV.

Marshall Honorof is a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.