US Senator quizzes Samsung, LG on Smart TV privacy

The Smart TVs are under a cloud for allegedly collecting voice data

U.S. Senator Al Franken is probing into the privacy policies of LG and Samsung Electronics for the voice recognition technologies they use in their Smart TVs.

The move follows reports that Samsung Smart TVs collect data from voice communications and even share them with a third party.

In letters Wednesday to Samsung's North America CEO Gregory Lee and LG's U.S. President William Cho, the Democrat from Minnesota asked whether it was necessary for the companies to collect personal communications in order to operate the voice recognition feature.

"If such communications are unnecessarily captured along with voice commands, is it possible to extract that data before transmission to a third party?" Franken wrote.

Samsung said in an email it "supports Senator Franken's commitment to consumer privacy and we appreciate the opportunity to respond to his inquiries regarding the voice recognition feature on our Smart TVs." LG did not immediately comment on the letter.

Samsung's privacy policy for its Smart TV came under criticism as it cautioned customers to "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."

In his letter to LG, Franken said the company's policy is unclear about whether it shared data with third parties, and about measures taken to protect any data sent. The company's policy states that users should "be aware that if your spoken word includes personal or other sensitive information, such information will be among the Voice Information captured through your use of voice recognition features."

In the wake of the controversy, Samsung said this week the TV will collect interactive voice commands only when the user makes "a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control."

The interactive voice commands are processed by a third-party provider Nuance Communications for speech-to-text analysis, it said.

"You may disable Voice Recognition data collection at any time by visiting the 'settings' menu," Samsung said in the post. "However, this may prevent you from using some of the Voice Recognition features."

Franken, who is a ranking member of the Senate subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, asked Samsung and LG if they share the voice data with any other third-party providers for any other purpose, and if the companies place any restrictions or exercise any control over "how third parties use, sell, share, retain, or protect voice data."

The Senator also wanted to know if the companies shared or sold data they collected about viewing habits of users to third parties. He also asked the companies if users could opt out from having their viewing habits monitored.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags consumer electronicsLG ElectronicssecuritySamsung Electronicsprivacy

More about IDGLGNewsNuanceSamsungSmart

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John Ribeiro

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place