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Be Careful What You Say in Front of Your...TV?


After a recent review of Samsung’s SmartTV privacy policy, many owners of the manufacturer’s new line of televisions felt the need to put on tinfoil hats. The privacy policy warned owners that the “smart” television’s voice-command capabilities may record personal information and share it with “third parties.”

Samsung responded to the complaints spurred from the privacy policy revelation, asserting that the televisions did not record personal information, and the only information being sent to third parties involved the specific use of commands spoken to the television for functionality purposes. While Samsung may have alleviated some of the discontent, it still left unsettling questions: What are the capabilities of this new technology, and its subsequent effects on our privacy? Furthermore, do the technological benefits outweigh the potential for abuses? And, who are these “third parties” invading into an individual’s private life?

Samsung, SmartTVs and the NSA

Over the last few years, the public has been made aware of the vast capabilities the government has in terms of surveillance. From the storing emails and phone messages on a global scale, to activating the microphones and cameras on our cellphones without our knowledge, the government’s ability to pry into the lives of any citizen is a real and an ongoing concern for many. While there comes a cost to every piece technology that we allow into our lives, we must ask ourselves whether the added benefit the technology brings truly outweighs whatever effects it has on individual privacy—both known and potential—that inevitably come with it? In this instance, does having a microphone in your television that sends data outside of your home regarding what is spoken really worth saving a few seconds of fumbling with a remote?

Can SmartTVs Be Used in Criminal Investigation?

On a more serious level, these privacy concerns have the potential to severely violate a person’s constitutional rights. The first thing that comes to mind is the marital privilege. What if a married couple is discussing private matters and the SmartTV picks up the conversation and subsequently transmits the private information to a third party. That conversation is no longer privileged and could have legal implications. Another example is the right against self-incrimination. What if a person is thinking out loud and the SmartTV records and transmits the statement? Further, what if this statement is taken out of context and carries criminal implications? This would lead to police showing up on people’s doorsteps unannounced in an attempt to obtain a confession to be used against them in a court of law. The examples are limitless.

The attorneys at Bleile & Dawson are experienced in all aspects of criminal law, especially as it related to protecting your constitutional rights. If your rights have been infringed upon, contact us today at (513) 399-5945 for a completely confidential consultation.
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