Samsung changes smart TV privacy policy after user concerns – but still shares spoken words with third-parties

Samsung has changed its privacy policy for smart TVs after uproar about privacy concerns on its voice recognition feature. A clause in the privacy policy suggested that Samsung captures spoken words, which might also include personal or other sensitive information, and shared that with third-parties. The clause has now been rewritten to better explain what is captured and why.


Privacy concerns of smart TV owners are nothing new. The way Samsung collects data for its voice recognition feature has been criticized before, and smart TV manufacturer were also caught collecting all kinds of information on its owner, like viewing habits.

Due to the uproar Samsung felt it was necessary to explain more about the third-party with whom Samsung might share data for its voice recognition feature. This third-party is Nuance, a company specialized in voice recognition. Voice commands are sent to the servers of this company which then translates the spoken words to text after which their servers send a command to the Samsung smart TV.

Nuance also collects the spoken words, according to the company to improve its services.

The old clause in the privacy policy stated the following, “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 through your use of Voice Recognition.”

Samsung now changed this to a more extensive explanation, likely hoping this will take away all concerns, “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.”

The company continues with an explanation how Samsung itself uses your data, “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.”

The Korean electronics giants ends the clause explaining what works and won’t work with the feature off, “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.”

Samsung also notes that the feature is enabled when users agree to its privacy policy and terms of use and that the company takes, “consumer privacy very seriously and that their products are designed with privacy in mind.”