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Shhh, Not in Front of the TV! Samsung May Be Eavesdropping on You

Samsung's Smart TV may be a little too smart for its own good.
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Samsung's Smart TV may be a little too smart for its own good.

Tucked into the privacy policy of the South Korean electronics behemoth's Smart TV are a few paragraphs that may send chills down the spine of some consumers. According to the document, the unit's voice recognition protocols can "capture voice commands and associated texts so that [Samsung] can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features."

The boilerplate language—which granted few people read in its entirety—sounds fairly anodyne. That is, until the company adds this warning: "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."

The TV's voice features can be disabled. However, the company adds another caveat: "While Samsung will not collect your spoken word, Samsung may still collect associated texts and other usage data so that we can evaluate the performance of the feature and improve it."

In other words, owners of the Samsung Smart TVs may need to watch what they say in their own homes, and especially where they say it.

A spokesperson for the company told CNBC that Samsung "takes consumer privacy very seriously," while adding that the company "does not retain voice data, or sell it to third parties. If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search."

The warning, first reported by The Korea Times and picked up on social media, may add fuel to a raging debate over how much control humans are willing to relinquish to automation for the sake of convenience. Tech companies are resorting to more creative, and some say surreptitious, ways to mine consumer data and profit from it.

Voice command technology is becoming more ubiquitous, and many consumers rely on those solutions—such as Apple's Siri—to power their devices.

Yet those protocols are only several degrees removed from autonomous devices, which is increasingly migrating from science fiction to reality. They also raise a host of privacy questions that experts are struggling to comprehend.

Artificial intelligence is an increasingly hot topic, with high-profile technophiles such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates warning about the unintended consequences of unchecked smart technology.