unnamed (12)It is estimated that 141 million smart TVs will be sold this year.  As Smart TVs become more popular among the general public, consumers need to be made aware of the hidden dangers and privacy issues associated with them.  “As with anything that is connected to the internet, smart TVs have the potential to be hacked as well as the potential to spy on users,” Supervisor Buster Johnson, 1st Vice Chair of the National Association of Counties (NACo) Cyber Security Task Force stated.

It was recently discovered that popular smart TV manufacturer Samsung privacy policy warns consumers that the voice recognition software on their smart TVs has the potential to listen to conversations and capture personal or other sensitive information.  According to the policy, users need to 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.  “Many TV users don’t realize the fine print in these policies and enable these services, yet by enabling them we are basically saying it’s okay for an unknown third party to listen in on our personal conversations at home,” Johnson said.

Samsung released a press release insisting that the information collected was not meant for unauthorized collection or use of personal information, and that they do not monitor living room conversations.    According to the press release, voice recognition data collection can be disabled at any time by visiting the “settings” menu.  While Samsung acknowledges the concern, they have failed to do anything.  Their privacy policy still states “if your words include sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party,” and they still refuse to list who the third party is.  “While this new technology is becoming more and more convenient for consumers, it is taking away our right to privacy.  We must ask ourselves what is more important: privacy or the convenience to talk to our TV in order to change the channel.” Johnson questioned.

Samsung is not the only gadget in our homes that is spying on us.  According to a report done by internet news giant the Daily Mail, in Microsoft’s privacy policy it states that it is ‘if you give Microsoft permission, we record commands whether you are online or offline’.  The policy goes further to say that it stores this data and, under its privacy policy, states that it can share it with ‘affiliates and vendors’.  Despite Microsoft’s claim that the information and data they obtain is secure, hackers were able to break into Xbox’s Live Platform in late December with the intention of showing Microsoft that their data is far from secure.  “If it’s connected to the internet, it’s hackable, and with more and more devices and gadgets being internet ready, these companies need to take the extra steps to ensure security and privacy,” Johnson said.

Steven Hurst, Director of Security Services and Technology for AT&T, recently gave a presentation to the National Association of Counties.  In his presentation he mentioned that these devices are being built with basic computing hardware and software that we haven’t seen since the early Window days.  “We are basically hooking up these devices such as refrigerators and coffeepots to our home internet with very little security attached to them.  They are leaving our networks vulnerable and are the perfect end point for hackers to break into allowing our entire systems to be compromised,” Johnson ended.