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How hi-tech firms are gathering information on us

How hi-tech firms are gathering information on us
By Everton Gayle
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Samsung has changed the privacy policy on its smart TVs after claims it was similar to lines in George Orwell’s novel 1984, which had themes of mass surveillance by government.

The thought that your TV may be listening to every word you utter while you sit on your coach at home was highlighted by the company’s privacy policy, which said: “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.”

After the media outcry that followed, the electronics company quickly updated its policy in a blog article entitled Samsung Smart TVs Do Not Monitor Living Room Conversations.

The new policy said: “We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorised collection or use.”

But Samsung is not the only company with the capacity to gather information.

Amazon Fire TV is a small box that connects to your TV set and the internet and uses voice recognition. According to the company’s terms and conditions, voice recordings may be stored on servers outside the country you live and shared with “third parties”.

Two years ago LG was accused of allegedly gathering information on viewing habits and selling them to advertisers.

The company’s smart TV had a setting called “collection of watching info” that was set to “ON” as default with viewers having the option of turning it off. But it was alleged that LG was collecting and selling the information regardless, even data gathered from its smart fridges. It was also suggested that the company had access to files stored on external drives connected to TVs.

All emails sent via Google are read by the company, which targets ads it thinks you may want to buy.

And even Apps on your phone are guilty of tracking your every move. One innocuous flashlight App, for example, asks for permissions to track your location (via GPS and your network), access to your photo and media files, can read, modify or delete the contents on your USB storage, read phone status and identity and view Wi-Fi connections.

George Orwell’s 1984, written in 1949, told a story of the inhabitants of Oceania, controlled by a government that watches its citizens via two-way telescreens in their homes and in public places, and where written correspondence is opened and read before delivery.

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