Big Brother or Poor Planning? The Samsung TV privacy gaffe

Samsung drew the ire and attention of the internet recently by releasing a television with voice recognition that might scoop up some of your personal conversations. Major news outlets like the Guardian and the Independent ran stories on it, both inspired by EFF activist Parker Higgins’ tweet comparing the Samsung privacy policy to Orwell’s 1984.

The Samsung privacy policy states: “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 told the Guardian that they care about privacy, that they encrypt, and so on, but the Privacy Policy speaks for itself: we may capture your utterances, and your only choice is to shut off that feature completely. Is this Orwellian? I think not. Is this poor planning and tone deafness? Certainly. The language in the Privacy Policy clearly doesn’t put people at ease; it also an example of how Notice and Choice, those cornerstones of ‘fair information practice principles’ are becoming more and more inadequate. The Samsung story is arbitrary in a way because there wasn’t the same outrage over Google’s always on “OK Google” or Apple’s “Hey, Siri.” Still, outrage and bad press are useful tools in the regulation of behavior – naming and shaming to effect better privacy.