You may be thinking that you are safe from spying eyes when sitting in your own home watching your favourite television programmes, or the latest blockbuster movie.
A new generation of television sets and digital video recorders (DVRs) is set to change all that.
Samsung has released new television models complete with built- in cameras, microphones, and face and speech recognition systems – all of which cannot be turned off by the user. There is also no indication to the viewer (such as subtle lights or on-screen graphics) that these systems are operational – they all work in the background – and no cables to unplug the systems.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Gary Merson who runs a technology website, and who has seen the new range of televisions in action, has raised serious concerns about the security of the information such a television could compile and transmit. Merson said he was concerned that the television sets could be hacked, allowing very sensitive and personal information to be stolen. He also expressed concerns that the data could be covertly transmitted to Samsung, or to government organisations. During the demo of the new set, Merson said that the machine had the potential to covertly record and transmit audio and video – effectively a spy right in front of the viewer.
Another company has filed a detailed patent for a new breed of cable television box that uses a depth sensor, an image sensor, an audio sensor, and a thermal sensor to record who the viewer is and what they are doing. The sensors will also be able to detect what people in front of the box are doing and where they are looking.
Verizon wrote in its patent application: “If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g. while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words.”
The new boxes would also be able to gather data from, and communicate with, other devices, such as tablets and mobile telephones. The company then went on to say in its application “…eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, playing a musical instrument, performing any other suitable action, and/or engaging in any other physical activity during the presentation of the media content.”
Both the Samsung and the Verizon technologies claim to enhance the experience of the user and ‘target’ advertising and other content at them. As if viewers are unable to think for themselves and make their own choices!
This kind of inbuilt and uncontrollable technology has the potential to be miss-used. If something is working in the background, the reality is that anything could be happening. And going by recent history, nothing is safe from hackers or the government. If they can record from your mobile phone without you knowing just thing what they could do by being in your home twenty-four hours a day.