THE BLOG

Samsung TV Listens to Users. We Have Lost the War

11/02/2015 11:20 GMT | Updated 12/04/2015 10:59 BST

The war against the machines was so much more dramatic in Terminator 2. There was stuff blowing up, cool blue lighting, mechanical feet crushing the skulls of the defeated human race (for which the accompanying sound effect was actually the slowed-down sound of a nut being crushed, fact fans!). It looked like a proper conflict, a battle that would be waged. It looked like the humans would fight back, however tough the odds and however futile things looked. We'd show at least a glimmer of resistance rather than embracing our overlords.

Well, the battle was waged already, and we lost. We not only lost but we purchased our defeat willingly - giving up the things that made us human in exchange for not having to spend twenty seconds looking for the bastard remote control. This is the week that the culture of data collection reached another significant milestone, broke another taboo, with the privacy policy for Samsung's smart TV allowing the company and its partners to listen in to everything its users say.

You don't need me to point out the logical commercial extensions of TVs listening in to our living rooms and bedrooms. We're already acclimatised to the creepy targeting of internet ads via our search history, and the way that the search history is now no longer locked to a single PC (thanks to our Google and Facebook log-ins following us from machine to machine). How long before TV ads will be the same? Where the TV will respond to a muttered "This has never happened to me before" from the squeaking sofa by offering a deluge of Viagra ads? Or a comment about trying to get in shape with a never-ending landslide of ads for Weight Watchers? Or chocolate cake? Or both, alternating in a spectacular binge and purge cycle to keep the wheels of capitalism turning and the poor consumer locked in a tormenting holding pattern of self-loathing? As long as the poor sap keeps spending, who cares whether they are happy?

Not your telly. Your telly does not care whether you are happy. Nor the people or programs who will listen to the words spoken in front of your telly. They do not care whether you're happy either.

I'm not by any means technophobic, and used to be an early adopter. I wasn't always the most successful early adopter, (my family owned a BSB squarial, put it that way), but I enthusiastically embraced every new development that technology had to offer me. I also tried to keep a fairly open mind when more security-conscious friends expressed concerns about a few breakthroughs along the way. I remember the first time I read an article saying that mobiles might, just might, possibly, maybe, under extreme circumstances only, be able to be used to pinpoint an individual's location. There were a few dissenting voices in the tech community back then, swearing that they'd never buy a phone that allowed such a thing. Pointing out that the increased functionality of the new generation of phones wasn't enough of a bribe to make up for the theoretical loss of privacy. I probably shook my head and tutted. Oh, you poor paranoid fools. Of course the new functionality is enough to make up for the loss of privacy. Google Maps is awesome.

I feel like sending the 'paranoid' naysayers an apology note, and asking if it's too late to join their gang. Retro phones are cool anyway. A line needs to be drawn, and I'm drawing it at Samsung's creepy-assed TV. Seriously, Samsung? I always assumed that breakthroughs in evil were generally made by cool companies that people actually liked. People let aspirational brands off a whole bunch of evil shit, because of their gorgeous design and customer friendly usability. I associate Samsung with a slight tone of disappointment, like a schoolboy uttering "Hey, I got a new stereo. It's a Samsung, but it's still pretty cool"

I will not buy a TV that listens to me. I will not buy a TV that reports the most private moments in my life to a cloud, to be dissected or stored. We've lost the war, and fundamental concepts of privacy and basic humanity from a couple of decades ago are just dust in the wind.

But I'll be damned if I'm going to invite my new robot overlords to sit in my living room and listen to me bitching endlessly about it.