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By Angelica Diaz


As technology progresses, consumers now desire that the products they use require less and less actions on the part of the consumer.  Many television and cable companies have caught onto this trend and have made voice active remotes, and now voice activated televisions.  The problem with voice activated products, is what happens with voice data that these products are listening for.  Specifically, Samsung Smart TV’s have now began placing “always-on” listening features within their televisions to better accommodate the needs and wants of its consumers.  The problem with this accommodation, is the privacy concerns that arise from this.

Samsung Smart TV’s have recently began placing “always-on” listening features within their remotes that allows the TV to wake up after hearing a particular phrase.  After waking up the device, the TV is then able to perform whatever functions you would like it to, such as finding your favorite television or movie without having to search through many button options.  The phrases used by the consumer are then collected and forwarded to a third party to improve better the product and survey which words are being most frequently used.  Samsung has recently began to face backlash from its consumers due to the collection of private conversations.  Consumers are having unrelated private conversations in the presence of the Smart TV, and particular words trigger the TV to begin listening.  The spoken words are then captured and transmitted just as the words one would use to find that TV show you were searching for.

It is clear and very well-known that without the knowledge and consent of the individual speaking, listening to another person’s conversation is an invasion of someone’s right to privacy.  The new age issue arises as to whether this same right to privacy arises when appliances are the thing doing the listening.  Through other recent similar situations where cell phones were collecting contacts and text messages and then transmitting them to third parties, it has been made clear that the consumer must be notified of such collection and transmitting of information.  Samsung is a well-known organization, which is very aware of the rights of its consumers as well as their obligation not to violate such rights.  In accordance with that, Samsung has put in their privacy policy cautioning consumers that their TV are acting in this way, placing their consumers on notice.

The one concern that comes to the surface along with the invasion of privacy of its consumers that Samsung is treading so lightly on, is whether the caption within their privacy policy is sufficient notice of this collection of conversation.  Many people are guilty of not reading the lengthy legal paperwork that goes along with entering a website or that are included within the appliances they buy, so what makes Samsung believe that its consumers read and were properly put on notice in this instance.  Perhaps Samsung may consider putting the notice on the box or on its own sheet of paper so that it stands out from the rest of useless paperwork people believe come within these boxes. Although Samsung claims to have put their consumers on notice of the collection of words and phrases, they may consider an alternative way of doing so.  This improvement would not only to calm the nerves and uproar from its consumers, but also to prevent a lawsuit of the invasion of privacy, that I am sure is in the horizon.

The right to privacy is one that is of much importance to everyone, both Samsung consumers and non-Samsung consumers.  Samsung has served its consumers successfully for many years and will surely continue to do so.  If Samsung is aware that its consumers are not reading their legal paperwork, which contain something of such importance such as the potential violation of their right to privacy that its product is doing, they need to make a better effort to put their consumers on notice.  Samsung must not hide this type of notice within the stack of other paperwork, but make it more obvious and in a place that a consumer is actually likely to read it if they want to avoid a lawsuit.



Student Bio: Angelica is a Content Editor for the Journal of High Technology Law.  She is currently a 3L at Suffolk University Law with an area of focus in Juvenile and Family Law.  She holds a B.A. in legal Studies from Bay Path University.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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