Conversations with the Kids:  Corporations and Privacy

Serendipity reigns supreme.  Last week was the rather sudden purchase of a new, larger screen LED television to replace our smaller and older model and after bouncing back and forth among retailers, we purchased a Samsung that honestly does have a breathtaking picture; it’s impressive enough that the family pulled out the director’s cut of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King over the weekend to watch it again for the umpteenth time.  Yet several days after it’s purchase, I came across a Techcrunch article that took a different look at the new Samsung Smart TV.

The Techcrunch writer noted that someone with the Electronic Frontier Foundation actually took the time to read Samsung’s privacy policy for the new voice-command Smart Television and found the following passage within it:  In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features.  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. So the upshot is that if you program your television to use the voice commands, you’ll have to remember that what you’re saying is going to a third party; you’ll also have to censor yourself lest truly personal information – and as families will spend time in front of the television, truly personal information can be discussed – make it to an unknown third party entity, who will at the very least, add it to the mass of information already out there for data mining.

The article’s contents have already been discussed with the kids and my wife, who is likewise glad that we opted out of voice recognition.  The message to Middle and Youngest is that the loss of privacy now extends beyond the internet itself.  As society opts for the ease-of-use with a wider and wider range of inter-connected devices, aka the sensornet, it should expect that the insidious price for the ease factor is the ongoing and increasing loss of privacy as more and more personal information is mined and gathered to add to the data profile for each individual.  It’s an especially troublesome consideration for a generation that has grown up online, willing to share an amazing amount of personal information with a wide variety of people on an extended number of social network platforms.  So the kids had better become aware now, even if they don’t yet appreciate the potential for trouble that such an invasion of privacy could create.

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