Samsung Advises that Smart TV NOT Always Listening and Sharing Everything

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Last week several “news” sites reported that Samsung Smart Televisions were always listening and sharing everything you say with a third-party. As recently as this morning, other services were repeating this allegation. This is because Samsung’s Smart TV privacy policy included, at the time, this statement: “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 was, it turns out, unfortunately worded (our guess is that the lawyers had something to do with the inclusion of that wording), as what actually happens, says Samsung is this:

1. If you have a Samsung Smart TV and you enable voice recognition, the television itself will only recognize certain, pre-programmed commands (such as ‘volume up’).

2. In order to use voice recognition for anything else, such as searching content on your television, you must use the ‘search with voice recognition’ feature that is on the remote control, and you must activate voice recognition each time by pressing the search button on the remote control.

In other words, your television is not listening other than for a limited number of preprogrammed words, and your remote control is not listening at all until you push the search button.

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Now, says Samsung, it is true that for those voice recognition commands that they capture, they are sharing them with a third-party in order to convert those commands to text, and to facilitate the commands. At present that 3rd-party is Nuance Communications, best known for their Dragon dictation products.

If you’d like more information, you can read Samsung’s statement on the matter, and Samsung’s Smart Television Privacy Statement which says, in relevant part:

Voice Recognition

You can control your Smart TV, and use many of its features, with voice commands.

If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control.


If you do not enable Voice Recognition, you will not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, although you may be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands.

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

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