Will Your Thermostat Destroy Your Life? It Might. It Just Might

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?

Answer: Nothing.

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.




3 comments about "Will Your Thermostat Destroy Your Life? It Might. It Just Might".
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  1. Dan Greenberg from Impossible Software, GmbH, February 9, 2015 at 11:17 a.m.

    Apropos this article, and the previous comment, you should understand that a whole lot of smart phones *already* can (or do) do what Samsung TV does. Ever notice on the "app permissions" the permission to use the phone's mic? Sure, this is often tied to some feature or other... like dictating your tweet... but the permission is persistent. That is, the app can listen any time it wants to and send your data anywhere it wants, with or without encryption, with or without privacy protection, etc. And it's not obscure, unpopular apps. It's things like Facebook:

    Welcome to 27b/6.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, February 9, 2015 at 11:25 a.m.

    Winston Smith from 1984 is not as apt a comparison as the Brave New World characters Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx.
    Regardless, the use of an app to help with voice recognition is old news. Google introduced Google Voice back in 2009 for the exact same purpose. We all got a cool phone number (I still use mine) and Google got to listen. As the invading body snatchers once remarked in a famous 1956 movie, "Once you understand, you'll be grateful"

  3. George Parker from Parker Consultants, February 9, 2015 at 6:21 p.m.

    Never forget, the early "Nest" smoke detectors had to be pulled off the market as they contained a software glitch that could cause your house to burn down... Probably if you swore at it.
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

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