Voice recognition software is awesome. We use it on our phones, computers, tablets and even TVs. Apparently it’s pretty useful for gamers as well.
But as cool as it is being able to tell your TV to go to channel 36 without having to touch a remote, it might not be worth it for those concerned with privacy. Last week, it was revealed that Samsung’s Smart TV is capable of listening to conversations when voice recognition is activated. This seems pretty innocent – who cares if Samsung knows what you say while you watch Game of Thrones?
Well, Samsung’s employees aren’t really the concern. Third parties are.
Think about Facebook circa 2009. There were no creepy terms of service giving Facebook the right to use your photos, and no tricky algorithms designed to only show you certain content on your news feed. Over the past few years, however, targeted advertising has become the only type of advertising used on Facebook, and your news feed is designed to show posts from the people you communicate with the most.
Most people didn’t see this coming when they signed up for Facebook six years ago, and now it’s become so necessary that nearly everyone is hesitant to delete his or her account. However, most Facebook users are aware that by being a part of the Facebook community, they are giving up some rights to privacy.
So now consider a television with voice recognition software. These TV’s are fairly new – my family bought our first Smart TV two years ago. But the more common these TV’s become, the more more easily we will adapt to using voice recognition to change channels and search for movies and shows. By this time, companies like Samsung and LG will most likely be experimenting with targeting ads based on your conversations. (According to Mercury News, LG has already been experimenting with this on their smart TVs.)
No one will want to give up this technology because most people they know will be using it. It will be the norm, just like Facebook.
For those who aren’t concerned with things like targeted advertising, the concept of voice recognition software could still seem completely harmless. But even Corynne McSherry, the intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said just last week that if a hacker got ahold of the information from the third party company, a smart TV could quickly become an eavesdropping tool.
As technology develops at an exponential rate, these are things consumers need to consider. We want all of our services catered directly to us, but we don’t want to give up our right to privacy. I question if this is a fair expectation.