George Orwell Strikes Again

Samsung’s Smart TV appears to be too smart for our own good. The boilerplate language in its instruction booklet seems blasé, until:

“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 warning’s adding fuel to the debate over how much control humans are willing to give up to automation for the sake of convenience. Artificial intelligence is an increasingly hot topic, with guys like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates warning about the unintended consequences of unchecked ‘smart technology.’

This isn’t anything new as smart meters are gathering unencrypted data that can, among other details, show when a homeowner is away from their residence for long periods of time. The electric wattage readings can even decipher what type of activities a customer’s engaged in, such as watching TV, using a computer or even how long someone spends cooking.

It’s also well-known that smart-phones are collecting information for marketing purposes. However less known is that some gathered data is not only being sent to the federal government, but overseas to countries like China.

Add to this the knowledge that thermostats, refrigerators, automobiles and even some toilets are now designed to interact with human beings. They can, through their computerized systems, collected data that’s designed to ‘make life better,’ for people.

Recently, my wife’s former roommate’s husband, Dan Kaufman appeared on ’60-Minutes.’  Known as ‘DARPA Dan,’ he’s the head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Information Innovation Office.

“So the fear is as everything becomes networked, right– so first, maybe they can mess with the refrigerator,” Kaufman told Lesley Stahl. “You think, “Well, that’s bad. It’s not that horrible.””

“But that refrigerator, of course, as everything becomes networked, well maybe that also happens to talk to your garage door,” he adds.

“There’s always a dark side and it’s something we wrestle with tremendously,” Kaufman finally warns.

Now, back to Samsung’s Smart TV — you can disable the TV’s voice feature. But as the TV learns, it’s possible it could ‘learn’ to enable that same feature even after it’s been turned off.

Until then jus’ don’t say or do anything around it you wouldn’t want heard or seen by “Big Brother.”


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