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

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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Paranoid? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:00PM (#39536879)

    No. They said if you're paranoid about some spook dialing into your camera, it can be disabled in the menu. If you're even more paranoid than that, you can turn the camera so it doesn't even point into the room, as well.

    If you're any more paranoid than that... well then just don't buy one.

    I own a laptop with a camera and microphone in it. I didn't write the operating system or drivers I use, but I can watch my network traffic. I see no difference with this device.

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

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

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 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 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.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.