Numerous Smart Devices May Now Be Secretly Recording Users

Consumers criticized Samsung for recording users through its smart TVs and sending the data to a third party, but other companies reportedly take a similar approach. Many of the audio recordings come from devices with voice recognition, like LG’s smart TVs or Amazon Echo. Such recording of unknowing users is not limited to the living room. Automobiles from companies such as GM and Chevrolet can record and send information about a driver’s speed, location, and their route to work.

LG_Smart_TVConsumers raised concerns over Samsung’s privacy policy regarding the voice recognition feature, but LG has almost the same statement in its own privacy policy: “Please be aware that if your spoken word includes personal or other sensitive information, such information will be among the Voice Information captured through your use of voice recognition features.”

Samsung clarified its policy to be more transparent about what the company does with those recordings and assured customers that it only records when the viewer pushes an activation button on the remote or TV interface. The home assistant Amazon Echo also only records after it hears a “wake word.”

Microsoft’s Xbox One essentially records data about its users all the time. According to Fusion, “Using a technology called Time of Flight, it can track the movement of individual photons, picking up minute alterations in a viewer’s skin color to measure blood flow, then calculate changes in heart rate.”

Xbox is also studying players’ gaze patterns and basic emotions. The gaming console can record this type of data for up to six players at a time.

Car companies could also be tracking the whereabouts of thousands of drivers. GM’s OnStar privacy policy no longer guarantees that the company does not consistently track users’ location. Chevrolet makes Corvettes with “Valet Mode with Performance Data Recorder,” which captures HD video from the car in addition to information about the car’s speed, RPM, and gear position.

Even Google’s Waze navigation app creates profiles of users’ driving activity and sells it to third parties. Security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski described the Waze privacy policy as “downright scary.”