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Samsung Says Their TVs Aren't Really Spying On You 171

Posted by timothy
from the jeesh-you-guys-are-so-paranoid dept.
lightbox32 writes "Samsung has finally responded to an article recently published by HD Guru titled 'Is your TV watching you?' [See this related Slashdot post] which discussed the fact that new features in Samsung's top 2012 models — including built-in microphones, HDTV camera, wireless and wired Internet connection, built-in browser with voice to text conversion, face recognition and more — could be used to collect unprecedented personal information and invade our privacy. Samsung has now provided their privacy policy, which may or may not lay the issue to rest." I vote for "not" — conspiracy theories about mandatory (or just secret) surveillance equipment in consumer electronics is just too persistent, even when the technical capabilities turn out to be a hoax; when the equipment is actually all in place and the user is protected only by a corporate honor policy, it's hard to be sanguine. (I recall there was a much rumored secret capability for law enforcement agencies to secretly and remotely turn on the internal microphones in PCs meeting the PC 97 spec, and this was an integral part of the plan. Since the government insists that telecom equipment have built-in backdoors, why should that sound all that crazy?)
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Samsung Says Their TVs Aren't Really Spying On You

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  • Paranoid? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ottawanker (597020) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:14PM (#39536603) Homepage

    Well, if you're so paranoid, get some tape and cover over the camera and microphone, or take it apart and disconnect it.

    But, maybe even light bulbs have cameras and microphones in them now, using the powerlines to transmit the data back..

    • Re:Paranoid? (Score:5, Informative)

      by anglico (1232406) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:24PM (#39536667)
      FTFA

      "Should the TV owner choose not to use these features, the camera and microphone can be disabled. Users can check if the camera and microphone are activated from the TV’s settings menu. As an added precaution, the camera can be rotated and tucked into the bezel of the TV. Once tucked away, the camera only captures a black image."

      • Re:Paranoid? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by expatriot (903070) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:40PM (#39536753)

        I presume that these features are part of the movement toward having TVs contain fully functional computers that can connect to the internet for viewing content or in the future Skyping other locations. That funtionality is in your laptop as well, but we expect it there. Sometimes the laptops spy on people, for example if it is stolen.

        A TV that can transmit is more frightening to some. Perhaps because of 1984, but perhaps because that TV has become a major part of people's reality and has so far only been one way.

        A totalitarian state, or even a demanding employer, could ask us to be available for conversation at any time. "Your choice, but if you have nothing to hide. We are only here to protect you from criminals." etc.

        • Re:Paranoid? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:01PM (#39536881) Journal

          Perhaps because of 1984, but perhaps because that TV has become a major part of people's reality and has so far only been one way.

          Or because TVs are more likely to be found in bedrooms and other places where people would very much not want to be seen by others. Unlike laptops (which can be closed and/or moved), those TVs are always pointed so that you can see them from the bed. This means that if it has a camera, it can watch you have sex, it can watch you watch porn (which, Slashdot readers notwithstanding, is more likely on a TV than a computer), and (if the angle is wide enough) it can watch you get dressed in the morning.

          A TV in a common room with a camera is potentially acceptable, but making it a standard feature of every TV would be a catastrophically bad idea. There are some places that cameras just do not belong. Like my bathroom.

          • Re:Paranoid? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Frohboy (78614) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:42PM (#39537461)

            Perhaps because of 1984, but perhaps because that TV has become a major part of people's reality and has so far only been one way.

            Or because TVs are more likely to be found in bedrooms and other places where people would very much not want to be seen by others. Unlike laptops (which can be closed and/or moved), those TVs are always pointed so that you can see them from the bed. This means that if it has a camera, it can watch you have sex, it can watch you watch porn (which, Slashdot readers notwithstanding, is more likely on a TV than a computer), and (if the angle is wide enough) it can watch you get dressed in the morning.

            A TV in a common room with a camera is potentially acceptable, but making it a standard feature of every TV would be a catastrophically bad idea. There are some places that cameras just do not belong. Like my bathroom.

            While I distlike the idea of TVs in bedrooms (unless you're a college kid whose only private space is the bedroom), I have to strongly disagree with the idea that a TV with a camera (that can watch you without your knowledge) in a common room is even remotely acceptable. Most of the time that I spend interacting with my child is in the living room, with the TV in plain sight, on standby (unless we're watching Sesame Street). I am strongly opposed to the very idea that someone could be watching or listening to what I'm teaching my children. (For what it's worth, I don't have anything to hide, assuming a secular upbringing loosely based on the "golden rule" isn't outlawed anytime soon, but if it were to be outlawed, I wouldn't want my TV ratting me out.)

            To be honest, I would rather have a camera in the bedroom. I don't particularly care about shadowy figures watching me have sex with my wife. (We enjoy it, but we're not especially camera-friendly, and we don't do anything that you couldn't find much more professional "amateurs" doing online.) The values that we instill in our children are personal and way more important than our naked asses.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Riiight, because THAT is what a militant police state would want, free amateur porn. I can just imagine the conversations now "OMFG, would you look at the faces THAT guy is making? It looks like he's gonna drop a deuce LOL!" or "Oh shit, not that fat girl again, every time she bounces its like watching a 70s water bed with all the ripples!"

            I can think of a few reasons why something like that might be useful to a government, but watching the average couple fuck? Not enough brain bleach in the world for tha

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              You misunderstand. I'm not saying that the government wants free porn. I'm saying that as soon as the cameras are there, your love life is only a quick hack away from people who do.

              • Re:Paranoid? (Score:5, Informative)

                by bmo (77928) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @11:17PM (#39538471)

                You misunderstand. I'm not saying that the government wants free porn. I'm saying that as soon as the cameras are there, your love life is only a quick hack away from people who do.

                Indeed. There are webcams all over the net that people have put in their houses as "more effective" baby monitors and such.

                And they are wide open to the internet.

                Are you bored?

                http://pastebin.com/fDkTWZGX [pastebin.com]

                Trendnet cameras. Wide open to the world. And so is your life.

                --
                BMO

                • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

                  by hairyfeet (841228)

                  And there are plenty of people that still have the 30 day trial of Norton that ran out 5 years ago and haven't updated their OS in just as long...the point? this discussion was about the government, not dumbasses being dumbasses. At least in most cases with the TV they have to go an extra length to be dumbasses as most current routers are IP V4 and are NATed so you can't just waltz in, 5 will get you 10 those Trendnet cams are using the crappy routers you get from the ISPs that usually have every kind of po

                  • by bmo (77928)

                    this discussion was about the government, not dumbasses being dumbasses.

                    The point, sweetie, is that the Government doesn't need to force people to install cameras. People are already doing it on their own. The dumbasses are the ones building the infrastructure on their own. Instead of Big Brother, it's millions of Little Brothers.

                    And all it needs is someone to act as Mom.

                    It's called a turnkey police state.

                    --
                    BMO

                    • by hairyfeet (841228)

                      BMO if you want to argue THAT point you might as well be hosting a "Ban Facebook!" party because as we have seen dumbasses will post INCREDIBLY detailed shit about their daily lives to FB. No need for big bro to follow anyone, just subscribe to their FB page and you can practically follow them minute by minute!

                      In the end though the original poster was trying to make this some big brother plot and when I pointed out it would be stupid THEN they switched to the stupid user scenario. But if you want to argue s

          • by Trogre (513942)

            Why would anyone want their TV connected to a network anyway? Is this to do with those stupid "Skype(tm) Ready" systems?

            • Because they want to watch movies from their server? A lot of TVs these days are quite capable of that feature and make that "media-box" redundant that way.

        • I have a great idea, you protect me outside of my home and inside, I'll protect myself and relieve you off that duty, but in return you keep your nose out of my home.

          You may come any time and search it provided you have a warrant. If you have none, you have no business in here.

      • Re:Paranoid? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by epyT-R (613989) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:41PM (#39536755)

        what about the mic? if the switch is software it can be remotely accessed. the switches need to be physical.

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:45AM (#39539061) Journal

        Note that typical Timothy insanity in the summary. PC's meeting the PC97 spec and their internal mic. I have motherboards that meet that spec, even entire PC's. None of them have a mic. Most don't even come with a speaker. You can plug a mic in but I would be highly intrested in how some spook can instruct my PC to go out, buy a mic, plug it in and start recording me, all without me noticing it.

        "But AHA! How do I know there isn't a mic", the true paranoid asks me.

        "Well because I can't see any", I reply.

        "How do you know what one looks like, nano genetic engineered cyber tech can make things very very small, they can put mic's inside chips and camera's inside pixels", the paranoid rants.

        And... he has a point. There are certainly occasional press releases about screens that can see and you could certainly mistake a PC on a chip new story as it including a microphone and camera. Am I that certain that the needs of either a mic or a camera preclude it from being to small, or indeed being covered by a cooling fan? Yes, I am but I have not always been right (Once I thought I was wrong and I was wrong about that).

        I can certainly see how those for whom tech is close to witchcraft and who have a limited understanding of how government works that and have guilty conscious might get worried.

        Take the old, the TV is watching me, that has now been revived. People have believed this since the days of cathode ray tube tv's with rabbit ear antenna's. How would such a device possibly watch you? There is no technical way, you would have to believe the government has immensely advanced tech that nobody else knew about to hide a camera in there without it being obvious OR just plain not understand how TV works. Never mind how the hell the signal is supposed to get back to the spy headquarters.

        With modern electronics and computers, this will only get worse. You can reason out why an old TV can't send anything back. But how can you proof a laptop visibly equipped with the tools to spy and the means to transmit them, isn't doing it? You could measure the network connection but how do you proof that there isn't a hidden signal that goes unreported? The led beside the camera is probably software controlled, at least that is what a paranoid could claim, so how do you proof it isn't recording when it isn't? Take it apart and measure electric flow but that is far to techy to satisfy the paranoid. If you believe lightbulbs can record and transmit a mere No current will not satisfy you.

        A lot of people believe the moon landings never happened. An AWFUL lot of people. Not just ignorable people in trailer parks. That the moon landings really did happen is beyond obvious, the most simple proof is that the Russians never even bothered to cast doubt on it. If you think the Russians and Americans are in cahoots on this... well... that is the nature of paranoia, secret world government and every government on the world IS working together after all. See how neatly it all fits when you don't need actual evidence and facts?

        It doesn't help that there are real spy projects like Echelon that show that some governments are willing to sift through a huge amount of drivel for... well... god knows what... it certainly doesn't seem to have given the US any intelligence to stop them blundering so often on the world stage.

        When a population who doesn't trust their government meets a government that can't be trusted, you have the end of democracy.

        It is like with doctors, at a simple basic level, you got to trust your doctor. If you don't, how can you take your medicine? Ask for a second opinion? How do you know that doctor is not in cahoots with the first? At a basic level, we should trust our government. And to ensure this, come down like a ton of brick on any in government that break this trust. But that would have required a lot of US presidents to hang from a rope during their term. And you can't have that can you?

        So people cover their TV to stop it watching them, and get to vote on the next leader they don't trust. Long live western democracy.

        • Well, let's assume I'm paranoid. Which I probably am, I'm pretty sure the government would love to spy 24/7 on its subjects (I deliberately avoid the term citizen, it comes with some rights attached). According to your text, I would probably think that democracy has ended. I don't trust my government to have my interests in mind, and I am firmly sure (that's basically a result thereof) that it cannot be trusted. I still don't cover my TV or PC every night and I don't cover my webcams and don't muffle my mic

      • "Should the TV owner choose not to use these features, the camera and microphone can be disabled. Users can check if the camera and microphone are activated from the TV’s settings menu. As an added precaution, the camera can be rotated and tucked into the bezel of the TV. Once tucked away, the camera only captures a black image."

        But can someone who wants to use the camera, be assured about his privacy?

    • i know a lot of people taping the camera (also on laptops etc)
      and actually, it make sense

    • by oldhack (1037484)

      This "wanker", as the name implies, is just ... you know ... wanking. He was just joking. There is no camera and/or microphones or any of that stuff in light bulbs.

      Ok, then. Carry on. Have a nice day.

      • But ... have you ever noticed that light bulbs emit light? You know what light is needed for? For optical recording! Every camera (with the exception of infrared, but then, light bulbs get hot which means infrared cameras won't work well in them) only gives useful images if there's light. So why do light bulbs emit light? Well, obviously to allow the built-in camera to record! ;-)

    • by Panaflex (13191)

      I actually do this with my kids toys. Snip the wire or throw in a resistor and suddenly it gets much quieter. Not paranoia, just hate loud noise.

    • Re:Paranoid? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by treval (89829) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:17PM (#39536949) Homepage

      You are assuming the tape you put over the camera is not transparent at IR or UV light frequencies - think of the Sony 'night-vision' cameras that could see through clothes.

      You are also assuming the gain of the microphone can't be turned up remotely to hear enough. Some decent signal processing can remove a lot of the underlying noise to recover the what is being said.

      Ask yourself too, how many owners are going to keep the TV firmware updated to deal with the inevitable security holes that will be found?

      Personally, I think it's not paranoid at all to question the pros and cons of these new 'features', inevitable as they may be.

      • Transparency does not mean it will allow anything even remotely close to a clear picture to be transmitted through. Ever tried looking through scotchtape? That's what's on the camera in my work laptop (employer provided, no admin rights).
      • by Timmmm (636430)

        You are assuming the tape you put over the camera is not transparent at IR or UV light frequencies - think of the Sony 'night-vision' cameras that could see through clothes.

        Haha, seriously? That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard all week!

    • by Salgak1 (20136) <salgak@speak[ ]y.net ['eas' in gap]> on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:22PM (#39536971) Homepage

      But, maybe even light bulbs have cameras and microphones in them now, using the powerlines to transmit the data back..

      Well, THAT certainly explains the Incandescent Bulb Ban, the installation of "Smart Meters", and that huge new NSA facility in Utah. But we need to connect it to HAARP, Chemtrails, and Obama's Birth Certificate for true conspiracy greatness. Extra points if you work in Black Helicopters, the Rothschilds, or the Tri-Lateral Commission.....

      • by mikael (484)

        There was a guy who was to report to his local police station every day because ho complained that secret mlitary tests made his incadescent light bulbs burn out. He kept a logbook of every tine this happened. It only happened 9 to 5, mondays to fridays.

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:45PM (#39537105) Homepage

      You dated my ex-gf didn't you? No joke! Her mother was your typical trailer trash alcoholic with a chain smoking habit. She was also bit wonky in the head. One day as my ex and I were sitting down on the sofa, I asked if her TV was broke or something. It's because she would cover the unit with a table cloth. Her response.

      "When I watch TV, they are watching me."

      The answer was in a serious tone. Talk about being ahead of her time. Not too far off.

      • by ThePeices (635180)

        How did you fit the couch into the trailer?

        • Well actually, it was more like a single wide mobile home. As for the sofa, I have no idea. It was already there when I arrived to visit her mother for the first time.

    • by russotto (537200)

      But, maybe even light bulbs have cameras and microphones in them now, using the powerlines to transmit the data back..

      The powerlines weren't reliable enough. Now the light bulbs transmit the data in the visible spectrum by DPSK-modulating the visible light; it's repeated throughout your house until it reaches a window at which point it's picked up by the black helicopter-drones and sent back to headquarters.

    • by hamburger lady (218108) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:29PM (#39537379)

      doesn't like every laptop now have a built-in microphone, an HDTV camera, a wireless and wired Internet connection, a browser and software with voice to text conversion, face recognition and more?

      we're gonna need a lot of tape.

      shit, maybe this story was a plant by Big Tape! 3M has deep pockets. that's the real conspiracy.

      • by swillden (191260)

        doesn't like every laptop now have a built-in microphone, an HDTV camera

        Most (all?) laptops at least have a light that turns on to let you know the camera is active. Though microphones don't provide any indication, usually.

    • by mikael (484)

      You can get remote control light bulbs these days - these are infra-red controlled for on/off and color. If they can fit an Ir sensor inside, they can fit a CCD sensor and microphone. They could even fit a fibgerprint reader on the on/off switch.

    • Well, if you're so paranoid, get some tape and cover over the camera and microphone, or take it apart and disconnect it.

      Everyone who stops by my desk asks "why do you have electrical tape over your webcam camera?" My answer is "because MIS didn't say they wouldn't spy on me.

      Also, I tend not to wear clothes around the house. Even when I'm telecommuting. Although, putting the two together could be interesting given I have a female boss up a notch or two in the hierarchy. "Yeah, we need to talk about your tele

    • by blackicye (760472)

      Well, if you're so paranoid, get some tape and cover over the camera and microphone, or take it apart and disconnect it.

      But, maybe even light bulbs have cameras and microphones in them now, using the powerlines to transmit the data back..

      Actually they use Wifi/3G powered by perpetual motion engines or for Japanese models by miniature fusion reactors. This enables them to send data, even when the TV isn't plugged into anything so they can still spy on you.

      The only sure way to protect yourself is to wrap the entire set in tinfoil.

    • by thsths (31372)

      Ok, so maybe I am paranoid, but that does not mean they are not out to get you. And they could certainly be more reassuring to paranoid people than with this statement:

      > Samsung employs ... safeguards ... to ... prevent ... unauthorized collection or use.

      But authorized by whom? They never clarify this, and they add a lot of exceptions later on. "Required by law", that could mean the law of any of nearly 300 countries in the world. What if Iran wants to spy on you - that is "required by law", too!

    • by antdude (79039)

      Uh, I don't think covering up a mic will work 100%. You would need to physically disconnect it. That isn't easy since it is internal and would void warranties. :(

  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:16PM (#39536615)
    Trust in corporate ethics is so incredibly low. Privacy expectations plummet every year. If I was a hardware manufcaturer, I'd fund an independent organization (like Consumer Reports) and say "use this money to investigate which new devices coming out violate consumer privacy, and issue ratings". If we can have Energy Star compliance, why not Privacy Star compliance? If all my tvs had Privacy Star stickers, and my competitors did not, +1 for me and my business.
    • That's an awesome idea, however, I fear that it will take a long time for people to be aware that this is good and needed.
      Energy Star worked because people are aware we should preserve energy (also it make their bill lower)
      They don't seem to figure out whats the issue with privacy yet (see FB, Twitter, preference cards in supermarkets/etc - list is huge)

      • by e9th (652576)
        Would "Privacy Star" compliance be more trustworthy than Energy Star? Remember when Congressional auditors got, among other things, a Gasoline-powered alarm clock [popularmechanics.com] an Energy Star certification?
    • But you could never really do that. Energy use is easy - basically plug the machine into a Kill-a-watt and type up a sticker.

      To ensure that a complex electromechanical device does not do something is nearly impossible. Sure, the default configuration might allow you to shut the camera down and you could see that nothing from the camera is being transmitted, but you could always put the machine into a 'nasty' mode which surreptitiously turns the evil eye back on.

      Hard to do on a router. Hard to do on a TV.

      • To ensure that a complex electromechanical device does not do something is nearly impossible.

        WTF? It's very easy to certify that a TV doesn't have a camera and microphone installed to watch you.

        It's also easy to certify that devices inherently capable of spying come with a real privacy policy instead of a "privacy policy".

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        To ensure that a complex electromechanical device does not do something is nearly impossible. Sure, the default configuration might allow you to shut the camera down and you could see that nothing from the camera is being transmitted, but you could always put the machine into a 'nasty' mode which surreptitiously turns the evil eye back on.

        Sometimes the old solutions are the best. Retro solution- a physical switch. When the button (mechanical affair with springs and levers) is pressed, the wire that connects the camera to the power supply is moved a millimetre in this direction, breaking the circuit. The only way to reactivate the camera is to have someone press that springs-and-levers button again.

        That's the way I was taught electronics in primary school. No need to over-engineer a solution; you can't improve on an original like that.

    • Two issues. One: it would call attention to the issue. The public by and large isn't too concerned about privacy (see facebook.) Corporations would have an interest in not calling any more attention to it, whether they want to spy on you or whether they simply don't want spend any extra money ensuring the stuff they sell you could not spy on you. Participation in this privacy star program would be voluntary, and no one would participate in it.

      Two: Those people that don't care about privacy (most of t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by doston (2372830)

      Trust in corporate ethics is so incredibly low. Privacy expectations plummet every year. If I was a hardware manufcaturer, I'd fund an independent organization (like Consumer Reports) and say "use this money to investigate which new devices coming out violate consumer privacy, and issue ratings". If we can have Energy Star compliance, why not Privacy Star compliance? If all my tvs had Privacy Star stickers, and my competitors did not, +1 for me and my business.

      Not to put too fine a point on this, but what you seem to be implying is that industry can regulate itself. I think the Banking sector, Oil industry, Pharma, Agriculture all prove that industry (the market, corporations...whatever you want to call it) cannot regulate itself. The reason for the success, which your post either deliberately or naively ignores, is that Energy Star was created by the EPA and the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration. What corporations are real good at is roll

  • Winston! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "The instructress had called them to attention again. 'And now let's see which of us can touch our toes!' she said enthusiastically. 'Right over from the hips, please, comrades. One-two! One- two! ...' "

    I can see why Americans are in outrage and upset about the prospect of mandatory exercise via the Televue screen :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Remember the scene in Kentucky Fried Movie where the news anchors are watching a couple having sex and trying hard to not let on they can see them through the TV? These days it may be a uncomfortably close to the truth.

  • by sourcerror (1718066) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:23PM (#39536659)

    In Soviet Russia television is watching YOU!

  • by Terrasque (796014) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:24PM (#39536661) Homepage Journal

    Samsung Says Their TVs Aren't Really Spying On You

    Of course they'll be saying that. They'd be crazy NOT to say it.

    I mean, they have enough patent lawsuits from Apple already.

  • Your boxers have a hole in them.

    • FTFY (Score:4, Funny)

      by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:02PM (#39536883)

      Your blue polka-dot boxers, the ones you wore this morning, may have a hole in them. We wouldn't know, since we're not spying on you.

    • Your boxers have a hole in them

      Our salesman will be around in a jiffy with a selection of new boxers in your size. *Ding-Dong* - That'll be him now, don't worry about your pants and wallet, we have your banking details and we've seen what you put in your boxer shorts.

  • by Genda (560240) <mariet@@@got...net> on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:27PM (#39536683) Journal

    For someone to create a personal firewall that prevents unwanted access to your appliances and unwanted data transmission from your appliances. It should be reasonably easy to build such a device, sell it for a reasonable price and let everyone know that they now have complete control over what their appliance does and when. I'd buy one in a minute!

    The only way to prevent oher people from taking inappropriate advantage is to eliminate the opportunity.

    • There already is a personal firewall that can do exactly that: iptables. [wikipedia.org] Of course, you have to be running a real OS to take advantage of it.
      • the problem is that its not so simple since you've to figure where the data is sent to in order to block it and that it can have multiple addresses, that the name used can resolve to various ips and change over time, that updates can change it, that it be tied to whatever online service the tv needs to be fully functional (stores for example), and even so they could still hide it in legit-looking requests without afaik, (ianal), violating any law

        • Actually, if you can find out what port they're using (and it's not the same port as they use for legitimate data) you can simply block the port completely. And of course, you can also block incoming requests on the ports they use making it hard, if not impossible for them to control any spyware.
        • It's been a while since I did anything firewall related - but surely it would be easier to white list sites for the IP address of the TV? *.youtube.com for example?

      • Most of these modern TVs have linux on them, but don't come with shell access and complete kernel sources....
    • The problem is in making it useable to the masses. The untrained don't even know what a packet is. The best defence we have is a small army of geeks who do care enough to check, and are ready to report their observations all over the internet.
    • by Sepodati (746220)

      How do you plan to identify a "good" packet from an unwanted one when they're both likely destined for Samsung?

    • by lgw (121541)

      And when the packet is headed for an EC2 IP on port 80, just like that Netflix viewer people want to use? Will you just test the Evil bit or something?

      Ultimately this is a solvable problem, because steganography is hard, but it's not an easily solvable problem by any means. It would probably take the resources of a major government or large corporation to be quite sure nothing unwanted was in any outbound packets, and that itself would make the device non-trustworthy, so I don't think it's practical.

    • How would you implement such? The devices would very be unlikely to transmit their data in human-readable text, so you'd need to know the binary layout of the data packets transmitted, and such details would not just be handed over when asked for. Then you have to take into account that different manufacturers wouldn't use the same protocol, and possibly not even one manufacturer would use one protocol among all of its products, so you'd have to reverse-engineer ALL your internet-connected appliances. Not t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They did confirm that an earlier line of their toasters might continue laughing at customers until the firmware was upgraded.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've never understood the anxiety that this kind of thing causes. If you want to stop your tv or toaster or lighbulb from spying on you then:

    1. go to a kitchenware place
    2. buy some cooking foil
    3. craft it into the shape of a baseball cap
    4. position it as high as possible on your body

    This works for all types of covert stuff that the man uses, with the exception of dream-robbing.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:42PM (#39536757)
    ...brain the size of a planet and they ask me to spy on you through this crappy little camera in my bezel. Call that job satisfaction, 'cause I don't.
  • PC97 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @05:46PM (#39536787) Homepage

    Paranoid much?

    PC97 PC's? Seriously? Barely anybody had a network connection when that was out, let alone remote-access. And how would remote access to that microphone work through your firewall and without you noticing the traffic?

    Every time you come up with (or reiterate) a crap conspiracy theory, I mentally filter everything you say as if I was talking to the local nutter on the bus.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/petraeus-tv-remote/ [wired.com]
      Now more devices have network connections, firewalls are on average consumer junk sitting on consumer OS.
      Your "Internet of Things" is now open to the CIA inside the USA.
      The noticing the traffic would just be the usual data that that a new device sends back for recipes, extended warranty, new, exciting apps and all the data needed personalizes the experience.
      All that unique data might just flow back via a fed sever onto its usual ip - your fanc
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is why we need open source software. We are wasting our time with speculation if we could just look at the code.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is why we need open source software. We are wasting our time with speculation if we could just look at the code.

      Please load your brains before you shoot your mouth off! [samsung.com] But then again this is slashdot. Samsung does compete with Apple for the hearts and minds of non tech savy consumers most of which have no clue about the Busy-box and OSS and the Linux kernel which makes all this home tv tech possible.
      Samsung does provide the source. Read the eulas. If you do hack it and run a modded firmware you do so at your own peril. Some of the stuff that they do is interesting and can be hacked. I am sure that if they were to h

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:25PM (#39537353) Journal

      This is why we need open source software. We are wasting our time with speculation if we could just look at the code.

      This is by far the lamest and most impractical meme slashdot has created to date. Have you looked at the size and complexity of any popular OSS application/library? A cleverly hidden back door could take you an eternity to find, and that's when you already understand the design (or lack thereof). Not only that, but you then have to build it to verify the binaries on the machine are the same as what you built from the source. When all is said and done and you have complete trust in the software you then run it on chips provided by the same company you don't trust.

      There is no surefire way to determine if these kind of devices (and the companies that supply them) are trustworthy, just as there is no surefire way to determine if a person is trustworthy. Trust is subjective, all anyone can really do is examine their reputation and track record, and perform random spot checks. Sure you can do more than spot check, you could sniff every transaction on the wire. But just as you can never be absoluely certain there are no bugs, you also can never be absoluely certain there are no back doors.

      Financial institutions primarily catch internal "cyber-thieves" by auditing the information trail they alter, not by reviewing the code they alter.

  • It's not a new idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by n5vb (587569) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:00PM (#39536877)

    I vote for "not" — conspiracy theories about mandatory (or just secret) surveillance equipment in consumer electronics is just too persistent, even when the technical capabilities turn out to be a hoax; when the equipment is actually all in place and the user is protected only by a corporate honor policy, it's hard to be sanguine.

    Considering that "viewscreens" that allowed The Party to watch people in their homes were an integral part of the story of Nineteen Eighty-Four [wikipedia.org], it's arguable that people who are familiar with that story are probably inclined to at least think briefly about the possibility. (In the book, the "viewscreens" couldn't be turned off, although it's fair to say that most pieces of modern tech aren't exactly ever "off" unless you completely disconnect all sources of power, so this may be 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.)

    Then again, in this age of the almighty corporation, how much is a simple corporate assertion of goodwill really worth?

    • You can unplug things all you want, but if you can't take out the battery is it really ever off?
  • by sqlrob (173498) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @07:01PM (#39537213)

    . We reserve the right to change this Privacy Policy at any time

    It also looks like they may not have even thought things through particularly well. I started seeing articles March 20th.

    This Privacy Policy is effective as of March 26, 2012,

  • Ever heard of camera phones or smart phones? Most people have one, many of those charge them in their bedroom at night. They have wireless connections to a network, mostly don't use open source software, etc. About the only difference is that the camera is not likely to be facing the bed, but the microphone will still work just fine.

    Now, poke a few holes in your foil hat, I think your scalp is starving for oxygen and sunlight.

  • The saucers are coming. A remember, they zipped a few hundred light years to personally shove some probe up your butt.

  • Who needs a 'TV' with a camera and internet access anyway?

    Do it yourself with a usb web cam, DVB-T USB adapter, raspberry pi and any old 1080p monitor with HDMI inputs, a USB hub and speakers?

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @11:10PM (#39538451)

    but there is also potential for good And I claim the patents! (or at least establish the obviousness of the following applications)

    • Save power by detecting that all viewers have left the room and turning off the video.
    • Save even more power by detecting that nobody's watching in quite some time and turn off the set.
    • Save mindshare by telling advertisers that nobody is watching their stupid ads. (So they're motivated make more interesting ads.)
    • Save sanity by telling channels that nobody is watching their stupid programs. (So they're motivated to not air such complete garbage.)
    • Eliminate remotes. TVs can respond to verbal commands or gestures to change the channel, turn off the TV, change the volume, search for shows, enter credit card numbers Okay, that's evil, but it's my idea. This would reduce the amount of time spent digging in my couch.
    • Feed back info to local news channels that tell them nobody's interested in their damned "human interest" fluff pieces.
    • Video calls to grandma. How can you not approve of video calls to grandma?
    • Detect that there are kiddos in the room and automagically block porn.
    • Detect that there are nekkid kiddos in the room and automagically block the distribution of kiddie porn.
    • Detect that there are kiddos in the room and target them with ads for stuff their parents hate but won't be able to resist buying when the ids whine for it. Okay, evil again, I know.
    • Detect that there are kiddos in the room and skip the viagra and liquor ads.
    • Detect that there are no pets or kids in the house and skip the ads for cat litter and kids' junk.
    • Detect that there are no women in the room and skip the ads for feminine hygiene products and other stuff that men don't even want to think about.
    • Detect that you are sitting on a threadbare couch and wearing cheap clothes from Wal-Mart and skip the ads for stuff you can't afford.
    • by Shavano (2541114)

      And one I forgot: Detect what language you are speaking and switch the audio to that language if it's available. If it's not English it can also attempt to verify your immigration status and put in a call to ICE.

      Oh, hell, now that we're on spying ideas, there are some public-safety-relevant ones:

      Detect assaults in progress and dispatch the police.
      Detect cries for help and dispatch the police.
      Detect snuggies and dispatch the fashion police.

    • by swilver (617741)

      Nice patents, however, they all kinda assume that TV, as it is now, will not rapidly become a thing of the past. I donot have a TV subscription anymore (why pay for ads?) and I have noticed that live is better that way. I watch what I want, when I want it, and that never includes ads.

    • by kimvette (919543)

      Save sanity by telling channels that nobody is watching their stupid programs. (So they're motivated to not air such complete garbage.)

      I'm sorry, but there is no killing shows like Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of $foo, Teen Mom, Ice Road Truckers, and so on. They're just too cheap to produce for the networks to say no to crud like that and yes to quality programs which require a full staff of talented writers and actors.

  • Samsung tends to use a lot of Free Software in their firmware—our Samsung TV came with a copy of the GPL and some other licences. If this is the case with the 2012 models, has anyone thought to request the source code for the firmware? Even if the alleged spying software is proprietary, if it really exists there might be hooks or calls to it in the GPL'd code which they're legally required to disclose. Then at least you'd have evidence that it exists.
  • Speakers, reversed, are microphones. All it would take would be an invisible (to you) hardware change.
    • by kimvette (919543)

      It would not be inaudible. A driven speaker isn't an efficient microphone because it is well-damped by the speaker-level audio signal.

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