Franken Seeks Info on Smart TV Voice Commands

Add Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to those legislators concerned about smart TVs and their ability to record voices and share those with third parties.

Franken, a member of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law and a longstanding voice for privacy protections, has sent letters to Samsung in the wake of reports that some TVs are recording conversations and sharing them with third parties—the idea is that it helps the TV's improve their voice recognition technology for recognizing voice commands.

He wants them to explain their policies for protecting the data privacy of those TV viewers. The concern was prompted by the privacy policies of the companies that warn users that say: "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 [the customer's] use of Voice Recognition."

Franken wants to know how those third parties treat the data and protect it.

“Given the nature of voice data, at a minimum, Samsung should provide clear and comprehensive privacy policies related to its SmartTV products and services, and should disclose detailed information about its data-sharing relationships with other companies,” Franken wrote Samsung. “Consumers must be able to make informed decisions about whether and with whom they share that information, and they must be assured that when the information is shared that it will receive the utmost protection.”

The smart TV voice recognition issue was brought up several times by concerned lawmakers in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday (Feb. 11) on the Internet of Things.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.