B12 Solipsism

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Smart TVs Just as George Orwell Envisioned

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You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film. 

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been immersed in dystopian novels. George Orwell would mutter I told you so about these latest Smart TV revelations if he was still around.

Careful what you say around your TV. It may be listening. And blabbing. A single sentence buried in a dense “privacy policy” for Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV advises users that its nifty voice command feature might capture more than just your request to play the latest episode of Downton Abbey. “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,” the policy reads.

Samsung’s privacy policy notes that in addition to voice commands being transmitted, information about your device, “including device identifiers,” may also be beamed over the Internet to the third-party service, “or to the extent necessary to provide Voice Recognition features to you.”
McSherry called that bit of qualifying language “worrisome.”

“Samsung may just be giving itself some wiggle room as the service evolves, but that language could be interpreted pretty broadly,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically – The Daily Beast.)

Samsung eventually admitted the 3rd party:

Samsung has confirmed that its “smart TV” sets are listening to customers’ every word, and the company is warning customers not to speak about personal information while near the TV sets.

The company revealed that the voice activation feature on its smart TVs will capture all nearby conversations. The TV sets can share the information, including sensitive data, with Samsung as well as third-party services.

Samsung has updated its policy and named the third party in question, Nuance Communications, Inc.

(click here to continue reading Samsung warns customers not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs.)

Lonely Zenith
Lonely Zenith

Hmm, sounds familiar. Remember this from a few weeks ago:

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

(click here to continue reading What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen | Federal Trade Commission.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

You didn’t realize that your habits were worth so much money to the corporate surveillance world did you? Too bad the data mining industry doesn’t share in any of the profits they’ve harvested from your habits and propensities.

Plus the whole listening to you every second might not always be in your own best interests:

Upon further investigation, however, police began suspecting foul play: Broken knobs and bottles, as well as blood spots around the tub, suggested there had been a struggle. A few days later, the Arkansas chief medical examiner ruled Collins’s death a homicide — and police obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home.

Inside, detectives discovered a bevy of “smart home” devices, including a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, a wireless weather monitoring system and an Amazon Echo. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”

That warrant threw a wrinkle into what might have been a traditional murder investigation, as first reported by the Information, a news site that covers the technology industry.

While police have long seized computers, cellphones and other electronics to investigate crimes, this case has raised fresh questions about privacy issues regarding devices like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, voice-activated personal command centers that are constantly “listening.” Namely, is there a difference in the reasonable expectation of privacy one should have when dealing with a device that is “always on” in one’s own home?

The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.

A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked.

(click here to continue reading Can Alexa help solve a murder? Police think so — but Amazon won’t give up her data. – The Washington Post.)

Luckily, my “dumb” tv still chugs along…

 

Update: the Samsung story is from 2015, the Amazon and the Vizio stories are more recent. Main point still stands however…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 16th, 2017 at 9:54 am

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