Samsung’s latest breed of plasmas and HDTVs may allow hackers, or even the company itself, to see and hear you and your family, and collect extremely personal data.
The new models, which are closer than ever to personal computers, offer high-tech features that have previously been unavailable, including a built-in HD camera, microphone set and face and speech recognition software.
This software allows Samsung to recognise who is viewing the TV and personalises each person’s experience accordingly. The TV also listens and responds to specific voice commands.
But some critics have suggested that the TV company could be spying on you, or even watching and listening to you – without your knowledge – through these features.
Gary Merson, who runs website HD guru, said that because there is no way of disconnecting the camera and microphone, users cannot be 100 per cent sure that Samsung is not collecting data and passing it on to third parties.
Merson said: ‘What concerns us is the integration of both an active camera and microphone. A Samsung representative tells us you can deactivate the voice feature; however this is done via software, not a hard switch like the one you use to turn a room light on or off.
‘And unlike other TVs, which have cameras and microphones as add-on accessories connected by a single, easily removable USB cable, you can’t just unplug these sensors.
‘During our demo, unless the face recognition learning feature was activated, there was no indication as to whether the camera (such as a red light) and audio mics are on. And as far as the microphone is concerned, there is no way to physically disconnect it or be assured it is not picking up your voice.’
Merson claims that this problem raises questions about whether Samsung can watch someone watching their TV, and listen to them, at will, via the microphone and internet connection.
It also sparks concerns, he says, about where Samsung stores this data that it collects and how secure it is.
He goes on to suggest that the TV sets could be hacked into if, for instance, they are run by operating systems that have a prior history of hacking.
When Samsung was approached to provide information on the set’s privacy features or the company’s policies, it did not respond.