Samsung doesn’t encrypt voice data, but that doesn’t mean we’re living in ‘1984’

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Samsung’s decision to include voice controls in its television sets keeps getting worse, and this time it’s because a researcher found that the company doesn’t encrypt voice data.

Some have already compared the voice control feature and a clause in Samsung’s privacy policy that allows the company to share data with third parties, to George Orwell’s “1984.”

That’s a slight exaggeration. As I wrote before, and as Fusion also demonstrated earlier today, many products only work because they can send voice data to third parties:

In that sense, these smart televisions are simply a logical extension of a popular trend. If you’re going to worry about them, you’ll also need to worry about your smartphone, tablet, personal computer, speaker, Web browser, and any other product featuring voice controls.

If you’re anything like me, you worry about all those things, and more. But I suspect most consumers won’t be too worried about Samsung’s television sets when they’re just like all the other products with which people are surrounded every moment of their waking lives.

Put another way: The only reason this controversy is swirling around Samsung instead of any other large technology company is that Samsung’s privacy policy was criticized first.

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing companies for industry practices. But in this instance, I think it’s better to condemn Samsung for decisions unique to its products, not a clause that simply allows these “smart” television sets to share information with an outside company.

Consider instead its decision to insert advertisements into consumers’ videos even though they own, or have otherwise paid for, whatever they’re watching. Or consider the decision not to encrypt its voice data.

Either of those facts on their own are enough to make buying one of these television sets seem foolish. Together, they make owning a Samsung smart television seem like a lesson in frustration and lend credence to the overblown complaints about Samsung’s privacy policy.

Though I suppose there is one aspect of this new research Samsung should welcome: it shows that the television sets aren’t listening to a consumer’s every word; just those uttered as part of a voice command. Samsung made dumb mistakes, but it’s not “1984” dumb. Not yet.

PandoDaily

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