back to article Watch it: It's watching you as you watch it (Your Samsung TV is)

Samsung's smart televisions don't just do what you tell them to – they also use their voice recognition capabilities to tell unspecified third parties what you're saying while you sit in front of them. If that's not a bit worrying, we don't know what is. Sharp-eyed folks have spotted Samsung's confession to that this effect in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh. Siri.. Google Now... and Samsung TVs? So what. Why not sign the article "Chicken Little"

    1. Mpeler
      Big Brother

      Chicken Little's BIG BROTHER

      Winston, get back here right now. Winston... Winston???????

      Big Blother? Big Bother?

  2. Number6

    Smart TVs

    A timely article. I've already rejected LG based on their privacy policy for smart TVs, now I'm going to dump Samsung smart TVs too. I think I'll end up with a dumb one and add my own PC to do all the fancy tricks.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Smart TVs

      > I think I'll end up with a dumb one and add my own PC to do all the fancy tricks.

      That is the best method anyway.

      Better not be W10 with Cortana though, or OSX with Siri. Linux it is.

      Am I the only one who thinks you don't need massive CPU for voice recognition? A couple of ARM chips might do it?

      1. Christian Berger

        Re: Smart TVs

        "Am I the only one who thinks you don't need massive CPU for voice recognition? A couple of ARM chips might do it?"

        That's actually isn't the reason why they do it. Speech recognition essentially works by having a huge database of voice samples and distilling models out of it. If you do that centrally you can not only collect that database for free, but can also provide new models on the fly.

        The centralized approach makes it easier to provide better quality recognition. What we would need is a free (as in speech) version of it

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart TVs

          Having worked for one of the biggest speech companies (the ones behind Siri & all), I can tell you that current mobile processors (ARM, 2GHz) are fine for recognition on a limited set, like TomTom does for navigation or your car for operation.

          So in theory it should be OK to process voice input on the TV locally for the sake of simple operation.

          But accuracy suffers and learning your voice is near impossible, which is why most offload it to a bunch of powerful servers.

          Anon for obvious reasons

          1. Nifty Silver badge

            Re: Smart TVs

            Anon for what obvious reason? A fairly innocuous comment I would have thought.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Smart TVs

              "Anon for what obvious reason? A fairly innocuous comment I would have thought"

              Don't be naive. You can be fired for ANY trivial shit these days.

          2. P. Lee

            Re: Smart TVs

            It just seems odd that its financially worthwhile to require big servers for the feature. More so, when bad PR like this comes out, not just in the tech press but via the BBC.

            Could it have all have been avoided? Have an agent available for a local PC which can do some of the work. The PC can upload the data back to the TV if required.

        2. JamesTQuirk

          Re: Smart TVs

          The First Voice Recognition systems I installed were "COVOX Voice Masters" on 512K/640K PC's & Commodore64's for Royal Blind Society North Rocks Sydney, a long time ago .....

          So a couple of Arm7 Chips would do it, I reckon, BUT if it only works with a internet connection, it can humm ...

        3. Stuart 22 Silver badge

          Re: Smart TVs

          You could use a pretty dumb chip. The only voice command that is really necessary is "Where is the <bleep> remote?"

          Sorted.

      2. Tom 35

        Re: Smart TVs

        The "smart" part will be obsolete, unsupported, and insecure in 2 or 3 years tops anyway (go buy a new TV, that ones old they will tell you) so you are better off sticking an external box on your TV that can be upgraded or replaced cheaply while you keep your tv for 10+ years.

        1. Eltonga

          Re: Smart TVs

          Well, the "smart" ones also offer the "dumb" function too. The only thing you need to do if you feel its eyes over your shoulder is to deny its access to your network and that's it. Sure, it will cost you several quids more than the out-of-the-box-dumb but you can make good use of its features with flash pendrives and the like.

      3. Phil Endecott

        Re: Smart TVs

        > Am I the only one who thinks you don't need massive CPU for voice

        > recognition? A couple of ARM chips might do it?

        Yes. I've actually built this, using Pocket Sphinx for voice recognition on an i.MX53 CPU. It does an excellent job for speaker-independent limitted-vocabulary recognition, e.g. "Record bbc2 at 10 pm for 2 hours". It's much less good at unlimitted-vocab, e.g. "Record university challenge".

        I've also chosen to use a microphone with a big red button on it. You press the button and talk into the mic, and it does what you ask. When the button isn't depressed, the mic element is disconnected. This avoids the privacy issue entirely.

        1. JamesTQuirk

          Re: Smart TVs @ Phil Endecott

          I was looking @ these 80 Core Units 16B/L CPU+64 GPU, for a project in recognition, but Visual Recognition, but they may handle Speech ....

          http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Mass-Manufactured-OctaCore-ARM-Cortex-A15-A7-Allwinner-A80-Android-4-4-Board/1021496_2015735541.html

          Memory: 2GB RAM, 8GB ROM

          OS: Android 4.4.2 or linux3.4.39

          WiFi: Support

          BT 4.0: Support

          1000M Ethernet: Support

          But the OLD button on the mic works a treat !!!

    2. paulf
      Linux

      Re: Smart TVs

      Myth-buntu (Myth TV and Ubuntu) and a dumb Iiyama monitor here, with Amp+Speakers for sound.

      It's been our PVR since 2007 - it needs TLC a bit too often when upgrades inevitably go wrong, but much prefer it to one of these sneaky slurping "smart" TVs.

      1. Kye Macdonald

        Re: Smart TVs

        I used to use the mythtv system but moved across to XBMC (now KODI) and never looked back. Interface is much easier and overall significantly less finicky.

        It now supports tuners so my only reason for keeping a myth install is now gone (not that I ever record anything anyway)

    3. JamesTQuirk

      Re: Smart TVs

      Best Way, I have Dumb (32") & Dumber (42"), as monitors, let the PC do tricks & run ANTI VIRUS if needed, I think I may cry (or giggle, if yours), if a hacker gained control of my TV and was charging for Pay4View Gilligan episodes ...

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Waiting for the 1984 reference..

    It recognizes your voice, has a camera, and captures text.... but it's secure... uh-huh... yep.

    And turning it off really doesn't? They say they don't collect it but nothing about not transmitting it if you do turn it off. Definitely not a TV for the bedroom then.

    What's wrong with just a TV and a remote control? Oh.. no data, information, etc. for them to sell to advertisers?

  4. Sir Runcible Spoon
    Black Helicopters

    Sir

    I have an older d8000 that doesn't have this 'feature', but last March I stayed somewhere that had a Samsung TV with voice commands enabled and it creeped me out so much I just unplugged the thing.

    Now I know why.

    I'm not paranoid, I'm just sufficiently experienced to expect the worst I can imagine.

    1. Robert Helpmann??
      Childcatcher

      Re: Sir

      I set up my media center (attached to a "dumb" TV) with voice control based on an Android app. It responded to too many people in the room. I imagine it would probably respond to shows that came on, too, given the opportunity. I can't imagine what an argument over which show to watch would result in other than an epilepsy-inducing display of flashing lights.

      I disabled this feature. Roddenberry got it wrong.

      I have debated whether I should set up an older phone as the dedicated remote for some of the same privacy concerns, but I like being able to call my "remote" and have it beacon if I lose it. I know, I am sacrificing security for convenience, but the cell phone will most likely be with me anyway.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Sir

        "I know, I am sacrificing security for convenience"

        Everyone is entitled to judge for themselves what level of security/convenience they are happy with, as long as it is informed and not something slipped under the mat!

        My wife and I have heated discussions around politics and religion (don't worry, we won't be appearing on Gogglebox anytime soon) - the potential ramifications of a stealth monitoring system in the guise of a TV is just a tad too far imho, ymmv of course.

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge
    Joke

    It's for the DRM...

    Speech recognition is for working out which words were spoken, but this article is about voice recognition: identifying the speaker. Make sure to create a recording of your voice so you can watch films you purchased even if you catch a cold.

    1. Spasticus Autisticus
      Mushroom

      Re: It's for the DRM...

      Flocke used the joke icon, the downvote bots can't tell a joke from a comment. Send the vulture in to the user database and exorcise these idiot accounts.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It's for the DRM...

        Why the joke icon?

        I'm sure this will end up as being prior art in some future patent case - unless the patent has already been filed.

        "Watch 2001"

        "I'm sorry Dave I can't do that - you bought it in region 2 and you are trying to watch it on a region 1 TV in a month with an R in it"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    coming soon?

    I'm sure that it won't be long (if not already there) that a website is created purely to list ALL the Phone home URL's and IP addresses that this sort of crap uses.

    You know like those who supplied codes to make your DVD Player Multi-regional

    Then the more savvy of us could just stop the passage of this data back to their respective motheships.

    Perhaps there will even be sites where we can learn how to hack into our TV's to cut this crap off at source but I'm pretty certain that at least in the US lawyers would start flinging DMCA lawsuits around pronto.

    Personally, these slimy data collection practices can go to hell. I got a decent price on an LG 4K [1] TV but there is no way that Voice Recognition is going to be enabled nor is it ever going to be permantly connected to my home network.

    [1] My 8yr old LCD had a massive PSU failure that fried a lot of the internals. No repair shop could fix it for anything less than almost the cost of a new one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: coming soon?

      Wireshark? Assuming it's not encrypted. Get it in real time then block it on the firewall. You could have some fun with it though - invent a language and really wind them up! Or speak Klingon. Google does.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: coming soon?

      Would't publishing such a list be a DMCA violation?

      1. Number6

        Re: coming soon?

        Only in the US. Host it on a non-US server with mirrors around the world. A good game of whack-a-mole could then take place.

    3. Eltonga
      Meh

      Re: coming soon?

      Awww c'mon... you can always block outgoing traffic from your TV, or as other poster said, sniff the traffic and block the offending packages... or just block anything going to sites associated with LG...

      There are always good alternatives to be reasonably safe from this kind of eavesdropping...

      Anyway, IMO voice recognition is not something that would tip the scale towards a smart TV, while other functionalities would appeal the family.

  7. Evil Auditor
    Alert

    So far, so unsettling

    But the real worry is, most people, even if they bothered to read such a privacy policy, wouldn't be concerned at all.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: So far, so unsettling

      Actually from my observation more and more people are bothered by such things. I've even seen Mac and iPhone users worry about such things.

      1. Evil Auditor

        Re: So far, so unsettling

        @Christian Berger, I'm glad to hear that. Unfortunately, around here mostly it's "oh, I have nothing to hide..." Alternatively it can also be "I prefer to receive personalised ads" or "if it's for better security..." and also the resigned "they collect these data anyway".

        With only a few exceptions.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: So far, so unsettling

          Seriously, we need to get people to understand the 'nothing to hide' shite is just that...shite.

          Next time someone says that to you ask them to let you look through their phone for photo's, texts and contacts etc. If they're happy with that then ask them if they would wear transparent clothing.

          *Everybody* has something to hide, it doesn't have to be for nefarious purposes. It would also be a breach of my human rights for someone to remove that choice from me (i.e. to hide personal things).

          In my experience, most people spouting that nonsense don't understand what they are saying and soon change their tune once they do.

          1. Robert Baker
            Joke

            Re: So far, so unsettling

            ' *Everybody* has something to hide '

            ...except John Lennon and his monkey.

            (They say the old ones are the best...)

          2. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: So far, so unsettling

            "Next time someone says that to you ask them to let you look through their phone for photo's, texts and contacts etc. If they're happy with that then ask them if they would wear transparent clothing."

            And if they respond with, "I'll go you one better. I used to be a nudist."?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So far, so unsettling

          ... and also the resigned "they collect these data anyway".

          That's the reaction I'm getting for any of the (meta-)data critiques I give out distressingly too often. That and "you mean they haven't been doing this before?."

      2. pdogguk

        Re: So far, so unsettling

        "Re: So far, so unsettling

        Actually from my observation more and more people are bothered by such things. I've even seen Mac and iPhone users worry about such things."

        -Please tell me you don't use Android making comment like that. Google are the undisputed kings of data collection and targeted advertising

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: So far, so unsettling

      "[...] most people [...] wouldn't be concerned at all."

      It's currently the most read story on the BBC site. If you'd asked me this morning, I might have said much the same as you, but I wonder if this might be the start of a shift in opinion.

  8. John Tserkezis

    "You may disable Voice Recognition data collection at any time by visiting the 'settings' menu. However, this may prevent you from using all of the Voice Recognition features."

    I may also disable voice recognition by unplugging the ethernet connection, so I can do away with my so-called smart TV and make do with a regular PC that's entirely under my control.

    And if Samsung doesn't like that, they can bite me.

    1. VinceH

      "I may also disable voice recognition by unplugging the ethernet connection, so I can do away with my so-called smart TV"

      Agreed; I'd rather not have a TV connected to the internet in any way shape or form. Even if my TV isn't a dumb one (which the current one is) it will be dumb by not being given access to the hive mind cloudy brain.

    2. DropBear
      Trollface

      Cue in WiFi capable TVs equipped with the latest exploits for the few most popular router models (including trying to log in with the default password) in 3....2....1....

      1. VinceH

        And the really sad thing is that it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if TVs (and other iOUT1 devices) did start appearing like that - so even if your own WiFi is nice and secure, it can latch on to somoene else's insecure network if it can get a signal.

        1. "Internet of Unwanted Things" - capitalisation deliberately chosen to emphasise the word 'OUT' in the acronym.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          It'll get even worse than that ...

          ... these things will be shipped with data SIMs eventually, so even if you forbid WiFi they'll be looking for a way to get onto the network.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Unhappy

          Well let's see. Comcast has provided a hotspot that anyone with a Comcast account can log on and use and that's the default setting here for any of their routers.

          1. Eltonga
            Mushroom

            Yes, but you get that one tied to a discount in your rates. If you pay the full fare you get the plain vanilla only-for-your-eyes one.

        3. channel extended
          Black Helicopters

          Extra help.

          Comcast is working on that for you. As soon as their network get large enough I can see them selling the service to advertisers. A Concast account number for the gov't to listen to all iOUT data. After all free wi-fi is a good thing isn't it? A Samsung TV could then connect and send data home with no need for user input.Also DRM could be enabled whether you like it or not.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge
        Trollface

        http://www.xckd.com/416/

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I may also disable voice recognition by unplugging the ethernet connection"

      I'm afraid, rather sooner or later, unplugging won't work, as they will make the basic operation dependent on the connection. Not possible? Well, Think photoshop, think Windows 10, think some newspapers, which you can ONLY read online.

  9. elaar

    After LG were caught with their pants down siphoning user data from their TVs, I decided to block the TVs access to the Internet on the router.

    You can still stream your own media, watch iPlayer, Netflix etc.. through Plex. Who really wants/needs to watch YouTube, Facebook etc through a TV app? People seem to be way too willing to give up personal information in order to use stupid gimmicks like voice recognition.

    I'll probably find out at some point that Plex harvests all of your viewing data as well, you just can't win!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "block the TVs access to the Internet on the router"

      Not the answer unfortunately!

      2. Take South America. Telmex / Claro dominates (Carlos Slim's billionaire empire). Users get locked out of their router on two levels. A. The router is locked with a password that even the call-out techs don't know. B. A blocker is placed over the cable to stop users connecting their own router or inserting their own along the chain. C. Claro use WEP encryption!!!

      2. How many Friends, Family, Colleagues actually know how to do this, never mind those who actually will take the time to do it...

      1. elaar

        Re: "block the TVs access to the Internet on the router"

        I agree, it's not a great solution, but the main point is that we shouldn't have to do it in the first place.

        With your examples of South America, I suppose you could still manually enter incorrect DNS details in the TV settings?

      2. Eltonga
        Holmes

        Re: "block the TVs access to the Internet on the router"

        Hint... hint... Claro is not the only ISP in South America...

  10. Detective Emil
    Happy

    See also the current Joy of Tech posting.

    1. BlartVersenwaldIII
      Pint

      Personally I don't think listening in on normal household events is painful enough.

      I would aware Nine Internet Pints to the first illustrious hardware hacker who takes the mic input and instead wires into into the output of a script that pipes random youtube comments through a text-to-speech engine... but then I'd be worried of actually driving Samsung's listeners to suicide.

  11. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Telly-what?

    "Your Samsung Smart tellie WATCHES YOU while you watch it"

    SO in this case, what's "tellie" an abbreviation for - "television" or "telescreen"?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Telly-what?

      Televiewer?

      "Turning on televiewer now. Contact."

  12. jnievele

    Uh, how surprising - my telly isn't powerful enough to recognise my voice commands and sends them to a central server, just like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Sony...

    If you don't want a TV with voice recognition, don't buy one. If you don't want a camera built in, don't buy a telly with a camera (but don't complain if it can't do Skype...)

    Seriously, that's just FUD again - Siri for example does exactly the same, Google Now listens all the time for you to say "OK Google", Windows 10 and Windows Mobile pine for the magic "Hey Cortana", the PS4 has voice commands, so does the new XBox, Amazon even sells a product that does nothing BUT listening... if you don't want this, don't buy such a product, but don't go complaining that it does what you bought it for.

    1. elaar

      I think you're missing the point. The average Joe may think he wants a TV with voice recognition, so buys one, but maybe completely unaware of the impact on his privacy in doing so.

      Buying a TV with a camera for Skype is one thing, the manufacturer then perhaps deciding to use that camera covertly for some form of data mining for its own benefit is worthy of attention.

    2. adnim
      Unhappy

      @jnievele

      That's all well and good until one cannot get a device that doesn't listen to every sound within its range.

      This is FUD because Google, MS, Amazon and Sony do the same or similar thing?

      Are you saying that this is acceptable because others do it?

      Enquiring minds, that is those minds that are still capable of enquiring would like to know.

      jnievele, I read juvenile until I did a double take.

      1. jnievele
        FAIL

        Re: @jnievele

        Those TVs are deliberately sold with "speech recognition" as one of the selling points. So even the dumbest customer should be aware that they listen to spoken words - because that's what Speech Recognition IS.

        If people are too dumb to RTFM, there's no helping them.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: @jnievele

          So even the dumbest customer should be aware that they listen to spoken words - because that's what Speech Recognition IS.

          Bollocks! Speech recognition is the magic computer-box understanding the commands you say. It's not the magic-computer-box recording everything you say on a totally separate company's servers.

          Most people are not computer experts. UK contract law now basically says that you can't hide something in the Ts&Cs and claim you have consent to do it, if it's not obvious. So you have to point out important clauses as part of the sales process. Hence "your property may be at risk if you do not keep up the repayments" - and that sort of thing.

          It's an interesting question as to what they record. Obviously they're not going to want a massive, stupidly huge, database of everything all of their customers say. But I bet they do want to do research on how often the TV is missing the command keyword. I assume you say something like "Samsung" or "TV" to wake it up, before asking it to change channel or volume. So they might want to record the odd evening's conversation to test that all instances of their chosen keyword were picked up?

          1. JamesTQuirk

            Re: I ain't Spartacus@jnievele

            They will probably record all, Store online, as the "Smart" TV probably has no Storage, to build the DataSet needed to Understand you ...

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: @jnievele

            "I assume you say something like "Samsung" or "TV" to wake it up"

            And that really is the nub of the matter. Listening for the "attention" signal should be easily done internally to the TV. There's no need for that part of it and any other random speech to be sent off to remote, probably extra-territorial servers for analysis. Apart from the privacy issues already highlighted, it's wasteful in both bandwidth and processing power.

            For that matter, there's no reason why most of the basic commands can't be managed internally. My Garmin SatNav can take not only the limited command set but also random addresses verbally without a need to use some sort of remote supercluster of servers to analyse what I said. No voice recognition training required. Another plus point on my SatNav. I get to type in a word or phrase to use as the wake-up command. No childish "Hey Cortana", "Hello Google" or "Hello Galaxy".

  13. jake Silver badge

    :;heh::

    One wonders if the marketards paying attention to all this spy-ware generated data will actually understand that all the people laughing at "the newest beauty product"[0], or the "fat burner pill of the month"[1], or useless vehicle advertising[2], or "take this pill to feel[hard|sexy|thin|better about yourself]"[3] or "Our Banking institution neverfleeces customers!"[4] etc. are totally serious ... Advertising is a complete farce, and always has been.

    [0] Same claims made over 40+ years for completely different "beauty" products, none of which work as advertised.

    [1] None of the other ones worked ... why are you still buying into the concept?

    [2] Honestly, have YOU ever purchased a vehicle based on advertising instead of going out and looking at what's really available in the real world? If so, WHY??

    [3] Ah, yes. Magic Fix-it Pills That trick never works, Bullwinkle.

    [4] ::snort::

  14. PGarin

    Orwell

    I seem to remember a book by George Orwell, an Englishman, I believe it was called "1984".... 30 years later we have it.... ("Hail Big Brother!").

    And as for the previous commentor, welcome to the world of "Big Data". I believe there was an English TV show called the "Prisoner". This was part of the introduction...

    "Number 6: Where am I?

    Number 2: In the Village.

    Number 6: What do you want?

    Number 2: We want information.

    Number 6: Whose side are you on?

    Number 2: That would be telling. We want information... information... information.

    Number 6: You won't get it.

    Number 2: By hook or by crook, we will.

    Number 6: Who are you?

    Number 2: The new Number 2.

    Number 6: Who is Number 1?

    Number 2: You are Number 6.

    Number 6: I am not a number, I am a free man."

    And isn't that the point, we are "Free..." until... we aren't.

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: Orwell

      They miss the next bit of the conversation...

      Number 2: Of course you're a 'free man', sir. And I'm a 'Samsung Customer Support Representative', but my screen still says you're number 6.

      Number 6: Oh....

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Orwell

      I preferred the Goon Show version. It's good to be alive, in 1985!

      If you commit a thought crime, the Big Brother Corporation will cut off your subscription to the Radio Times...

    3. Zog_but_not_the_first
      Thumb Up

      Re: Orwell

      Upvote for "The Prisoner" reference. Personally, "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own."

  15. Tromos

    Simple way to avoid this

    I believe that all the Samsung TVs that have this feature are supplied with two remote controls. Just remove the batteries from the one with the microphone and put it away in a drawer. The only data they can get now is your viewing habits. They're welcome to mine, most of the time I'm watching HDMI2 - good luck with making anything of that.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Simple way to avoid this

      "Just remove the batteries from the one with the microphone and put it away in a drawer."

      Hang on! You what? You still need to find the remote from down the back of the sofa before you can use the voice commands anyway? I've been assuming through all this that the mic was part of the TV.

      Also, someone was on the radio about this earlier today. He had to turn off the voice recognition because the TV was being "controlled" by the audio from his sound system and doing random and strange things to sound of voices from the TV. The mic can only "cancel" the TV sounds from the TV speakers. And we all know how "good" they are.

      1. Tom 35

        Re: Simple way to avoid this

        Can we do a radio ad, that will turn on peoples TVs, and switch the channel just in time to show our TV ad?

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Simple way to avoid this

        Probably they have one in the TV too.

        Maybe a third hidden one my drill will miss :-(

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ever hear of Shazam?

      Even on 'HDMI2' the TV can easily tell what program you're watching (whether live or recorded) whether you skip commercials or not etc. the same way Shazam can identify what song it hears.

      Didn't expect to see someone so hopelessly naive at El Reg...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    "...some voice commands may be transmitted... to a third-party service that converts speech to text"

    Such a lot of complexity in order to save some fat-arse having to press a button or, god-forbid, get up out of their seat.

    Wierd how all this technology is easing the strain of modern life, but mostly in areas that are really, really trivial.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon
      Black Helicopters

      Re:

      Kind of makes you wonder why they bother at all eh?

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: "get up out of their seat"

      And do what, once they are out of the seat?

      Have you actually tried to do anything using just the minimal set of buttons on the telly itself?

      You're normally limited to buttons for power, channel up and down and volume up and down. If you're lucky you may have an input selector and sometimes a menu button. And if you're really lucky, there may be a physical power switch somewhere you can find it.

      Whilst checking a Sharp telly I was given (without a remote), I tried to get it to re-scan the DTV channels after I had done a reset. Turns out you can't do it at all without the remote. Fortunately, I came across a code for one of my universal remotes that provided the "DTV menu" button needed. I also think that my main living room telly can't select HDMI as an input from the buttons on the telly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "And do what, once they are out of the seat?"

        Fair points. I guess they've already eliminated the need to get out of the seat. Except, of course, if you have a dog like ours, which treats remotes as a prize to be fought over.

    3. phil8192

      Re: "...some voice commands may be transmitted..."

      Why Samsung televisions should transmit the speech anywhere for conversion to text? Their Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets do the job internally. You can dictate a note and it will appear as a jerky stream of text on-screen, even if no network connection is present.

    4. jnievele

      Re: "...some voice commands may be transmitted..

      It's for those people who dream of living in a Star Trek universe...

      Quite a few people still say "Oh, I want to live on the Enterprise, just like Captain Picard - how cool would that be!!!" - yet few people realise that the Enterprise computer system tracks every movement on board, listens to every conversation, and probably even tracks you via CCTV. And with the right level of access, the computer also will tell authorised persons all it observed... so no quick date with Counselor Troy in her quarter, Riker will just say "Who visited Troys quarter in the last 48 hours and went into the bedroom" ;-)

      1. Eguro

        Re: "...some voice commands may be transmitted..

        Let's be fair. Riker would need to provide a command override to the privacy settings. Once his envy became apparent, and his knowledge was found to be too great, Picard would check the system and BAM: "Ensign Riker reporting for duty"

        Further of course, the vessels of Star Fleet will be command vessels, and authorized personnel will need the ability to - within very strict privacy and command override protocols - to access information if it is deemed necessary for the safety of the people aboard and the integrity of the mission.

  17. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Don't forget the "Smart" recommendations

    There's another screed of click-through legalese associated with the feature that recommends content you may wish to view by sending details of everything you watch to Samsung and their selected partners so they can save you the trouble of consulting the EPG. At least (following media outrage) you can opt out of that.

    You can't opt out of the 102 pages of terms and conditions relating to the "Smart Hub" feature (catch-up TV, other miscellaneous apps & games and DLNA) though they mostly don't apply if you don't create a Samsung account that they can use to aggregate your data and authorise your access to "premium" content.

    And Samsung TVs that feature "gesture control" have a camera.

    But there's no need to be overly concerned - your mobile phone has already scooped up all your interesting and valuable data - the stuff left for your telly is mostly just the dregs.

  18. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Big Brother

    "You are the dead"

    We are the dead.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first
      WTF?

      Re: "You are the dead"

      A downvote for a 1984 telescreen reference!?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    good job Samsung aren't American

    Otherwise the NSA would have a direct route in.

  20. Robert Ramsay
    Terminator

    "I know you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, Dave"

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      At least being spied on by a homicidal maniac in charge of a spaceship, means that I get to have a go on a spaceship. I'm willing to put up with that, if it gets me into space. The risks of space travel are pretty high anyway.

      Samsung are only giving me a telly. Then again, the risk of brain damage from watching X Factor, is probably the more significant threat...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Samsung are only giving me a telly."

        Giving? No, you are paying a pretty penny to be data-raped. It's not as if they charge less to make up for taking all that valuable data or offer a more expensive, snoop free version.

        Was it The Fifth Element where the guys "free" TV was "always on" blasting out adverts because he couldn't afford one with an off switch?

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          I don't recall that from 5th Element.

          Although I do remember the blip-verts from '20 minutes into the future' which made lard-arses explode.

  21. DropBear

    True story!

    I'm not going to imply anything, but as a related thing it's not exactly amusing that AFwall regularly pops up a note on my Android phone of it having prevented Voice Commands accessing the internet - considering I definitely keep it switched off...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just a want a TV with a classy screen that doesn't spy on me! .. How hard is that?

    Well its getting harder to find basic models anymore as many shops only stock 'Smart'.

    LG and Samsung want to build platforms that are direct conduits to advertisers. These systems use onboard gesture recognition, microphones and cameras, to spy on entire families, feeding data to advertisers in real-time, completely usurping Google and Facebook ...

    I'll be sticking with basic LED and Plasma as long as I can...

    1. Eltonga
      Joke

      Re: I just a want a TV with a classy screen that doesn't spy on me! .. How hard is that?

      "LG and Samsung want to build platforms that are direct conduits to advertisers. "

      BMW is already doing that with its cars, why wouldn't LG and Sammy do the same?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Top-3 reasons to stop buying overpriced spying Smart-TV's :-

    1. Samsung TV Panel Lotteries. Do consumers realize many Samsungs don't have Samsung panels?

    2. Smart-TV Spying (LG used to be worst offender, now its Samsung).

    3. Where can consumers even get 3D / 4K / 8K Ultra content today?

    Its pretty scary how TV makers want to get into bed with Advertisers. I thought Android Smartphone (Google) monitoring was bad, but it makes Facebook spying appear benign! Now, the CEO of Samsung says they intend to connect every single TV they sell to the internet. I walked into a department store soon after and was told "Oh, yeah, we only sell Smart TV's now"! Ouch! Who has time to read the 20-50 page privacy document?

    How did Smart-TV makers respond after Microsoft force-upgraded Skype without warning? You can buy a laptop and a basic TV for the price of a Smart-TV, and upgrade any app including Skype without delay. You can even use VLC and play any video format, which Smart-TV's can do that?!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the Solution?

    * People, please stop buying Smart TV's.

    * Connect a cheap laptop instead, its far superior!

    * Demand a basic model or walk away. The problem is that many stores are no longer stocking non-Smart TV's. We must halt this trend and send a message to LG & Samsung....

    * To the other competitors, create a privacy driven TV with a great screen and market that against LG & Samsung.... i.e. The offline Edward Snowden TV...

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: What's the Solution?

      * People, please stop buying Smart TV's.

      Unfortunately if you want more than 1 or 2 HDMI ports you pretty much have to buy a higher end model which these days tends to mean "smart" tv.

      Reasonable solution currently is either to leave ethernet unplugged or should you wish to use DLNA in-house, block it at your router (both suggestions have already been made by several posters).

      Now, if they actually sold just a decent panel with plenty of ports without any annoying smarts for reasonable price that would be great.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "if you want more than 1 or 2 HDMI ports" -> "smart" tv

        Buy a Smart TV just for extra ports? That's a terrible idea.

        Buy a HDMI remote switcher instead for $10-30...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kinect has been doing this for years

    Infact Microsoft were even considering using what you talked about to determine what adverts to plaster all over the Xbox dashboard.

  26. tony2heads
    Big Brother

    citizen Smith

    What was that you were mumbling about the Party?

  27. Spleen

    "But you can turn it off."

    Doesn't matter. As anyone working in the media or politics will tell you: If you're in front of a microphone, always assume it is on. Always assume a tape is recording. Always assume a camera is rolling.

    It applies to Google Glasses and it applies to smart TVs. If you're not happy to live with the assumption that everything you say in your living room is being recorded, don't buy one.

    I seem to recall the telescreen could be turned down (but not actually off) as well.

  28. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    It sounds like...

    ... you're having a wank in front of the television. Would you like to access the porn channels?

    PS Remind me to change the combination on my luggage...

  29. Ashton Black

    ...and which TLA will be the first?

    Any guesses which three (or four) letter agency will be the first to say to Samsung... "We want to listen in on X, the proud owner of one of your TVs. Here is a letter saying we can and that you can't talk about it."

  30. gisabsr

    I fixed it by not connecting the TV to t'internet, and using a small form factor computer instead (I'll admit that it's a Mac Mini running Kodi/XBMC and will wear the resulting down votes with pride!), limiting what it can do on the Internet too.

    It's much better at doing the things I need it to do than any smart TV, upgradeable, and at least I can control what it does, and doesn't send.

  31. phil8192
    Coat

    Meh, I stopped watching television in 2007. My old cathode ray tube receiver was a nice one in its day, but it has mostly been collecting dust, except for popping in a DVD once every 18 months, or so. I get my video news by watching YouTube clips on the Web, and my desktop computer has neither a camera, nor a microphone attached to it, except when I explicitly plug them in for use with Skype. Sure, I did it, but how many people can tear themselves away from the video pacifier?

  32. mky267

    1948 - 1984 - 2015

    Written in 1948, predicted by George O. to become reality in 1984, finally coming to our screens in 2015

    <Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.>

    <It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.>

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: 1948 - 1984 - 2015

      The biggest problem for Brother is that of scaleability. It takes a lot of man-hours to sift through all the data for anything meaningful.

      Sure, computers are getting better at doing it, but ultimately it comes down to how many people are in a position to look through the info.

      This is why we should stop this kind of thing in its tracks before spying on one another becomes the 'norm'. Once the public start doing their job for them they have solved the labour problem and we will no longer even be able to resist.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: 1948 - 1984 - 2015

        "This is why we should stop this kind of thing in its tracks before spying on one another becomes the 'norm'. Once the public start doing their job for them they have solved the labour problem and we will no longer even be able to resist."

        Wasn't spying on the neighbors the norm back in the old days when villages were small and everyone knew each other? In which case, we'd be going BACK to it.

  33. davemcwish
    IT Angle

    Facts please commentards

    Lots of Orwell analogies but given that this is supposed to be a technical forum, can I have some more facts please. Like:-

    1. What is Samsung's definition of "personal or other sensitive information" ?

    2. Is there an algorithm or is there a list of 'defined words/phrases' ?

    3. Who is the third party mentioned ?. I'm assuming its not Samsung or a subsidiary.

    4. Regarding the other data collection, could my router's firewall be used to block that traffic - assuming that I could use a sniffer like Wireshark to determine the destination addresses ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facts please commentards

      And if they change the destination address, are going to check every week to see if you're now being snooped? The benefit of voice commands for TVs are pretty thin in the first place, this just makes it go from "solution looking for a problem" to "creepy".

      What's wrong with a good old fashioned remote control? If you have the habit of losing it, it seems like the solution is to have a way to get it to identify its location. Maybe clap three times and the remote beeps from under your couch cushion...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Facts please commentards

        "What's wrong with a good old fashioned remote control?"

        Never enough buttons! Apparently it never occurred to any of them that if I want to jump to HDMI3 where my box is hooked up, I'd like to be able to do it in one press for the sake of my technically-illiterate mother who gets lost after two presses.

  34. Yugguy

    If my TV had voice recognition

    It would have fucked off a long time ago.

  35. earl grey
    Big Brother

    whether wi-fi or hard wired

    Just block it at your router. i wouldn't trust their internal "turn off" to actually do its job since they already have the "snoopy" part in place. it's bad enough when they don't use a generic control and you can't access features without their specially branded 400 button gizmo.

    1. Tom 35

      Re: whether wi-fi or hard wired

      Most people have an ISP supplied router and don't even know there is an admin password let alone now what it is and how to configure the router (if the ISP will even let them).

  36. A Ghost
    IT Angle

    "Oi Donna...

    ... come and 'av a look at this TV I bought dahn the pub from this fridge freezer..."

    'Oh, I don't know about 'at Carl, says it got speech recognition'.

    "Whaddya mean speech recognition?"

    'Well, I dunno Carl, but I think it might mean somethin' like it recognises speech, like, might be able to hear us when we're havin' it off on the new shagpile that you also bought from another fridge freezer dahn the pub if I remember correctly. Last thing we want is someone listenin' in when you're going for gold and getting confused and shouting "Go on my son!"'

    "Oh"

    'Never mind Carl, ew weren't to know butty'

    "No, I've messed up again 'aven't I Donna?"

    'Donnew worry Carl, we'll just block it at the router!'

    "You're a genius gal, I knew there was a reason I married ew"

    'And while we're about it, why don' we do a traceroute to see if it's redirecting all our DNS on port 53'

    "Problem solved, 'nother Carling Black label Dons?"

    'Oh, go on 'en'.

    ----------------------------------------

    Ahem, I think I spot a slight flaw in this 'workaround'.

    Can you tell what it is yet?

    1. Domino

      Re: "Oi Donna...

      TV snooping seems a small concern when fridge freezers have evolved to the point where they go down the pub for a pint!

      1. Spleen

        Re: "Oi Donna...

        Fridge freezer = geezer. I'd egg and cress.

        1. A Ghost

          Re: "Oi Donna...

          You egg and cress subjectly.

          Ok, I made that last one up. It was all I could think of at the time.

          It takes brains and wit to be a cockney, that's for sure.

          Gahwd bless 'em.

          You sound like a bit of a fridge freezer yourself sah!

  37. Colonel Mad

    Thanks

    To think only half an hour ago I was looking at a picture in the manual of a person speaking into the smart control. Mine's in the drawer with the batteries removed!

    1. A Ghost
      Pint

      No, that was you that was!

      You were looking in the mirror at the exact same time you were trying to work out why your remote would not work.

      'Hello, hello, Colonel Mad here. Colonel Mad to base. Do you read me, over!'

      Actually Colonel Mad, just removing the batteries won't work. I don't want to make you paranoid, but they have self-oscillating crystal dilithium chips in there that can be recharged by microwave frequency (such as when you do a boil in the bag bag of rice in the microwave when you're too pissed to burn the kitchen down).

      I'd be very careful about your next choice of meal when you get back from the pub if I were you. A full chip pan left spitting and spurting on gas mark 5 is a much more effective solution for not being listened in to at those tender moments when lips are at their most loose. Just keep a wet tea towel to hand, and for pity's sake, don't fall asleep whatever you do.

  38. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    A little surgery

    If the next time I can only buy a smart TV, I will remove the camera connections and microphone connections. If not possible, I'll drill the mic and cam.

    1. A Ghost
      Boffin

      Re: A little surgery

      There was a discussion recently in the radical feminist Guardian (as it shall now forever be known), and someone was saying they have software that can rewire the polarity on headphones (or rather the soundcard that reads the headphones) so as it acts as a microphone device. When someone pointed out how the hell was anyone going to physically rewire a Class D Amp to achieve this, silence ensued.

      Ah well, got to keep the public scared I suppose. It was from ID4093908034958, funnily enough. A number, not a name.

      Being an audio engineer, I know of this little trick and yeah it works - well just plug your headphones into the mic socket, or in a push wire your speaker up to it. It's all moving coil magnets that create electrical charge in reverse, or rather read the charge in reverse. Or whatever, this isn't a lesson in how to do it and I'm confusing myself here. But I have done it. The quality was shit. But not as shit as I thought it would be.

      Still waiting for an answer how software can do this though. I know it could, feasibly, but there would have to be some kind of switch in the physical circuitry and that could be noted by anyone studying the device. There would be no good reason for that being there, in fact, it would be a red flag. To date, I know of no discovery.

      I'm more paranoid than the next man, because they are out to get me. But even I thought this was a bit of a stretch.

      It's a shame I've stopped reading the radical feminist Guardian, because I found comments like this quite amusing.

      Ah well, at least no more Gender War Clickbait. I read the Independent now, and for $99.00 I too can get a successful home business up and running in no time.

      So by all means, get the Black and Decker out. But did you check the internals for reverse polarity switches? The reason I ask is, because they might be able to use your headphones as a mic. Just nuke your headphone socket and speakers from orbit to be sure!

      1. Black Betty

        Re: A little surgery

        Sound ports tend to be fully configurable these days. The same sockets support 7+1 surround sound and 7 lines in.

        1. A Ghost

          Re: A little surgery

          You've lost me. But it sounds like I should be worried.

  39. Long John Brass
    FAIL

    Revenge of the Fappening

    Wonder what happens when the great and the good get re-broadcast el-unnatural

    Wonder what the prime-minister is up to this morning ... Slurping Earl Grey

    1. A Ghost
      Stop

      Slurping Earl Grey

      I hope to god that is not some kind of euphemistic phrase!

      'Eh, Torn-Ay, wunna coom round an slurp soom Earl Grey?'

      Sorry, my broad west yorkshire accent is not so good these days. But perhaps you get the picture.

      (hopefully not)

      God knows who the real prime-minister is these days. I don't have a clue. My psychiatrist keeps asking me, but I think it's a trick question.

  40. Manu T

    Oh dear!

    "...insisting the data it collects is encrypted and cannot be accessed or used by unauthorised parties."

    hmmm..... where have I heard THAT before?

    1. A Ghost
      Angel

      where have I heard THAT before?

      Er, in your meeting at 11am this morning? The one you were too hungover to remember.

      You know - the one where your company was going to leverage key assets in a major push for everyone to be on the same page so that some kind of synergy could take place so that none of you would have to be looking at other alternatives for possible deployment in other essential areas?

      :-)

      I particularly liked the bit where they said 'WE TAKE OUR CUSTOMERS SECURITY VERY SERIOUSLY'.

      Sorry, that was from the article and not your meeting at 11am this morning.

  41. Conundrum1885

    Re. Re: A little surgery

    With a lot of features in software (ie FPGAs) these days it is quite feasible for example to make a socket reconfigure its function and many newer cameras and phones do this already.

    For example on certain Samsung smart phones the "headphone" socket outputs video if a certain impedance presents itself on IIRC the tip and sleeve.

    I did recall a datasheet suggesting that some monitors have this feature for in factory firmware flashing via normally unused pins on the VGA/DVI input and certainly Sky boxen can be reflashed over the air or through pins on the SCART input.

    Advertisers are going to be thrilled with this as they could potentially see if someone is discussing particular problems (ie split ends/nail fungus/etc) and then pop up the appropriate adverts at the next break.

    1. JamesTQuirk

      Re: Re. A little surgery

      Maybe you could, using Sound System & Mic, RIG up the sonar like system in BATMAN movie, so you know when to turn camera on, but sensors on your phone are better ....

  42. Zog_but_not_the_first
    IT Angle

    Electronic surgery

    If "smart" TVs become the norm, I can see "how to lobotomise your TV" sites springing up. Unless they're out there already.

    1. smartypants

      Lobotomising TV

      The best way I can think is to pack an hour-long 'science' programme with the elaborate world-wide travel itinerary of a celeb just so he can stand on a mountain in Peru and demonstrate wind-chill.

  43. Hans 1
    Joke

    from Samsung with Love

    CC: GHCQ

    Subject: Audio quality of recordings

    Dear customer,

    The audio quality of the voice recordings we have made in your living room is terrible. Please consider upgrading your Ethernet cable; Samsung recommends highest quality materials such as AudioQuest Diamond-grade Ethernet cables. [see http://www.audiovisualonline.co.uk]

    Regards,

    Samsung Customer Server

    Platinum Party Member Status

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vlad the Impaler Works for Samsung in Samsung's Legal Dept.

    Shyster diligence has severed the head of Samsung's greedy managenent and hoisted it on the legal departments pitard for all to see. Soon, there will be a testable solution for encrypting user data: in the home, enroute to the auto, everywhere it is stored and only with encryption keys created and held by users for joint control of private data.

    Promising a safety deposit vault in big print while building a loading dock behind the facade of a safe must cease ASAP.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More movie and tv story content

    Expect this to be part of hacking in tv shows and movies in the next few months. "Is anyone home?check their credit card for a tv purchase, reference a serial number and hack their tv for audio/video."

    Or,

    "There are two bodies and no witnesses. Check with Samsung. Let's see if they have the last few hours of conversation."

    Or,

    "They've got a Samsung smart tv, hack it and turn on the audio/video"

    Thanks Samsung, will we need antivirus for for our tv now? I think we need more access to their tv OS so security people can evaluate this.

  46. Conundrum1885

    Re. More movie and tv story content

    Too late, this was done already by "The Watch".

    It did mention using cameras on computers as well..

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021