New from Samsung: SmartAleck TV!
Yes, a television that eavesdrops on your conversations, then sells the gossip to outsiders. Kind of like Stasi, or the butlers in Buckingham Palace. If you’re one of those people who always complained about TV bugging you, now it’s literally true. You are being monitored, like Winston Smith, by your telescreen. As Dave Barry likes to say, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.
“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,” says Samsung’s privacy statement regarding its smart TV technology. Who that third party is they do not specify. Jesus, I hope it’s not TMZ.
As explained elsewhere, the idea is for the device to gather as much spoken language as possible to help the voice-recognition software learn your vocabulary, speaking patterns and accents….as well as your pet names, dirty secrets, criminal confessions, safe words, Tourette’s blurts and Fantasy League strategy.
Trying to think.Trying to think. Who have I badmouthed in my family room? Well, for starters, there’s most everyone in my family. There’s Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins. Also, of course, both loathsome Kims: Jong-Un and Kardashian. And I don’t know what my exposure here might be, but to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld: Hey, fellas, please don’t take the term “war criminals” out of context.
Riddle: What’s the difference between Aldrich Ames and a Samsung SmartTV?
Granted, the details are not as creepy as they might first appear. All the data collected by your home entertainment center is encrypted and theoretically anonymized before being sold to advertisers, insurance companies, tabloids, divorce lawyers, the IRS, etc. That will protect every American in this great country of ours, until it doesn’t. These data sets have a nasty habit of falling off trucks. And if you saw The Imitation Game, you know that what can be encrypted can also be decrypted. This includes the German Enigma code, Gen. Jack D. Ripper’s “purity of essence” and, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, anything they tell you to.
As a practical matter, the chances of being victimized by such a privacy evasion are infinitesimal, on the order of probability alongside meteorite strikes through your roof, Powerball wins and Obama’s tax proposals. Still, as we increasingly evolve into the Internet of Things, our homes and cars will be filled with devices that know our every move, and within a reasonable margin of error, thought. If you want your refrigerator to order groceries for you, just bear in mind that scene from The Sound of Music.
You know, when Rolfe, the weasily Hitler Youth, blows the whistle on the Von Trapps? Now, I don’t want to be unfair here. I’m not saying your fridge is definitely a Nazi.
But it might be.