“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."
That prompted a lot of chatter over the weekend that clearly became loud enough for the firm to weigh in Tuesday. In a company blog post, Samsung laid out exactly how its voice recognition features work and said that it would modify its policy language.
"Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously and our products are designed with privacy in mind. We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use," the company said in its post.
Samsung explained that voice recognition works in two ways on its televisions. The first is through a microphone built into the set that listens for commands such as "change the volume" or "change the channel." In this case, the television doesn't store or transmit anything you say.
Users can also ask the television to search for something, which then is stored and transmitted to a server to process what users have said. That's where the "third-party" comes in.
That third party, Samsung said, is Nuance Communications — the prominent voice-recognition software firm that makes products including the Dragon Naturally Speaking line of software. Nuance is providing the service that Samsung uses to recognize what you're saying so your television can ultimately provide you with the answer you want.
But, Samsung said, users won't ever be recorded unexpectedly. In the new policy, Samsung makes clear that it "will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request ... by clicking the activation button" on your remote control or on your screen.
In truth, a lot of voice-control technology is listening all the time, though more in a sleep state than anything else. Any service that you activate with a certain phrase — whether it's "Hey Siri," "Okay Google," "Xbox" or "Alexa" — has to always be listening for its prompting words so it can wake up. That's not new, though that latent listening — even if the information isn't being transmitted — can turn some people off from the whole idea of voice control.
Still, it would be good to get a clear answer on which companies control data pulled from Samsung televisions, and how. Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nuance declined to comment.