“Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.” – George Orwell, 1984

samsung smart tvSamsung is advising its consumers to stop talking in front of their Smart TVs. Yes, that is correct. You heard me right. Apparently your television may intercept private family room conversations and then transmit them to third parties, such as software providers.

There are a number of ways Smart TVs can pick up on conversations, most notably through voice recognition devices. When the voice activation feature on the Smart TV is active, every prompt your voice emits is processed by the smart device. Think of it as Cortana from Microsoft and Siri from Apple. If you tell Cortana and Siri to call your mother or father, they will search your contacts and dial immediately. If you tell them to shut down your mobile device, they will also abide by what you ask them.

Samsung said: “If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.”

The consumer electronics manufacturer claims that it is still able to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent it from unauthorized collection or usage through industry-standard security safeguards and practices. It’s still not clear, however, how much of the transmissions it can block.

Samsung is not the first Smart TV manufacturer to run into such problems. In late 2013, a UK IT consultant found his LG TV was gathering information about his viewing habits.

At the end of day, it’s important to exercise caution and review all privacy policies and terms of use policies with third-party website services before usage. Don’t immediately scroll down the document and click accept; read each statement with care and make sure you understand the implications.

Doesn’t this remind you of George Orwell’s book 1984? The book, written in 1948, explored the issue of telescreens spying on citizens. To learn more about other Orwell predictions, such as “Big Brother is watching you”, that have come true today click here.

Canada’s Digital Privacy Act

iRISEmedia’s internet law team reviewed the current Digital Privacy Act in Canada. Your worries about Big Brother reporting everything you do on the internet are not unfounded. With this Act in place, you could easily have your personal information handed over to companies and organizations without knowing when and how it’s happening until your name is filed in court papers.

Just last year, in a highly reported case Voltage Pictures, Canadian courts ruled that TekSavvy, an ISP provider, had to disclose names and addresses of subscribers suspected of illegally downloading data and imposed rigorous protections and court oversight in order to guard against “copyright trolls”; defined as those who get ISPs to turn over subscriber information linked to IP addresses suspected of online piracy.

Beware: Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter are not exempt from this act.

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