THE BLOG
12/02/2015 08:42 GMT | Updated 13/04/2015 06:59 BST

Orwell's Voice Recognition TVs were Supposed to be a Warning, Not a Blueprint

"Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by [the screen], moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork."

George Orwell, 1984

What was once a warning that sent shivers down readers' spines has turned into blueprint for researchers and developers in technology companies. Taken in the context of the sudden media interest in Samsung's Smart TV's, never more has this passage been as relevant. The interest around the technology is that it allows the company and its partners to listen in on everything their users say. If there was anything that was erring towards the "creepy line" of big data, then this most certainly is it.

When pushed on whether the TV will listen in on your conversations, Samsung admitted that you should avoid having personal conversations in front of your TV. Their privacy policy even states: "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."

Delving deeper into Samsung's privacy policy, they acknowledge that information will be passed onto and used by a third party, without giving any indication of who that third party may be. I imagine that it is this aspect that will perhaps be the most concerning for people.

Now although it may seem that way, I don't want to single out Samsung. If anything, they have taken steps to be as transparent as they can be in explaining how this technology works and the potential privacy concerns that run alongside that. But this sudden media interest meant many will have started to ask themselves a very important question: Who is it that has access to our personal information? It is one thing to seemingly make the decision to share your information with one company, but what real control do we have over who else has access to it.

We know from the Edward Snowden revelations that there are companies around the world, whose entire existence is based on gathering as much information about their users as possible, which have been forced to hand over that information or worse, were used as data centres to be harvested without the companies knowledge.

So is it time that we start educating ourselves? To start demanding to know more about what data is being gathered about us and how it is used? Without a mini revolution, without the appetite consumers, then this simply won't happen. Technologies like Samsung's Smart TV will become the norm, not just the expensive, latest must have gadget on the market. And by then it will be too late for anyone that has a secret to hide or a personal conversation that they want to have.

This may sound dramatic. But it is already happening around us. Looking back thirty years ago, how many of us would have predicted how the internet would change the way that we live our lives.

The message that I hope I am making clearly is that we can't be passive in this digital revolution. We must start asking the probing questions: who it is that is benefiting from our data, because at the moment it certainly isn't the general public.

If we fail to start asking those questions, and demanding answers, we will have no right to complain when our privacy is passively or purposefully intruded upon.