Watch What You Say, Your SmartTV is Listening

As we have become increasingly connected to the Internet, surveillance technology has become more ubiquitous and valuable to both the government and the private sector. This monitoring technology is being implemented for security reasons, as well as for consumer analysis and targeted advertising. According to an International Data Corporation, the size of the Big Data services and technology market will reach $48.6 billion in 2019. Though these advancements in behavioral analytics are a boon for companies, the pervasiveness of surveillance threatens the privacy of consumers.

The compilation of the personal information of consumers by companies like Facebook and Good as well as government surveillance of cell phone and Internet activity is already well known– and in the case of Facebook and Google, well-covered by Consumers’ Research. However, many consumers may not realize that this surveillance technology has spread into everyday objects, spanning from billboards to televisions. Recently, Samsung revealed that the voice command feature of its new Internet-connected smart TVs allows for the recording of everything you say while employing the feature. Your voice commands are then transmitted to a third-party, which converts your voice data into text to query its information systems. Samsung warns that consumers should “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.”

Mass surveillance technology has also spread to public buses. According to the Washington Post, the Maryland Transit Administration began installing recording devices on buses in 2012, and today has approximately 500 of its fleet of 750 vehicles equipped with technology that records the private conversations of passengers.

If the technology exists on an object to record what you say and do, assume that someone is listening. Moving forward, businesses should prioritize privacy that protects consumers while still analyzing data in order to better cater to the needs of their customer base

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Jake Steele is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying finance and management. During his time at Consumers’ Research, he has examined developing trends in finance and technology.

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