WEB & TECH / FEB. 11, 2015
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Samsung and 4 Other Companies Involved in Privacy Violations

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Samsung is making headlines this week - and it’s not over quarterly earnings, a new smartphone innovation or corporate move. Instead, it’s regarding the company’s line of Smart TVs that are invading the privacy of its customers. 

It was first reported by the Daily Beast that Samsung’s Smart TVs actually record the conversations of its users who are near these televisions, which prompted many to liken it to the telescreens produced by the government in George Orwell’s iconic "1984" novel. It records conversations only when the voice feature is activated. 

The company isn’t concealing this information because the revelation is listed inside its privacy policy. Here is what it states: "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.” 

Essentially, the company is warning consumers not to discuss personal and private matters when near these television sets. Despite privacy concerns that numerous people now have after the reports generated buzz, a spokesperson for the company told the website that it employs safeguards to protect the data. 

He added that owners can deactivate the voice function as well as the Wi-Fi network. However, the corporate statement hasn’t assuaged the situation because there are still many questions that some are asking, including: who is the third party that retrieves this information? How will the data be used? How are the conversations transmitted? What happens if hackers infiltrate the data? 

Indeed, this news will certainly shatter the image for Samsung, at least temporarily anyway. 

With that being said, here are four other private companies that have been notorious over its questionable privacy infractions and violations: 

1. Google 

Over the past several years, Google has faced an enormous amount of lawsuits and complaints from governments and users over the search engine juggernaut’s handling of its users’ privacy. Despite the growing number of concerns, the tech giant still hasn’t solved the issue because its advertising revenues depend upon attaining a rudimentary profile of its users. 

One of the latest cases came at the end of 2014 when it was reported that Google could be fined nearly $20 million if it didn’t cease violating the privacy of Dutch Internet users, according to the Netherlands-based Data Protection Authority (DPA) 

The DPA argued that Google is breaching the nation’s data protection act by using its users’ private information, like browsing history and location data, in order to target them with personalized ads, an issue that has been ubiquitous for more than a decade. Google will have until the end of the month to change its data collection practices. 

Google’s data collection measures have been under investigation in the United States, Canada and a few other European countries, such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom. 

2. Facebook 

Similar to Google, Facebook has been at the forefront of privacy violation allegations. One of the more common privacy infractions consists of collecting private information to sell to advertisers. However, Facebook has been accused of more than just selling data about users, but rather intercepting messages. 

Last month, a class action lawsuit claimed that Facebook violated its members’ right to privacy. The suit accuses the mammoth social network of accessing private messages without any consent in order to extract the data for profit. 

Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley of California assert Facebook scans private messages with URLs in them "for purposes including, but not limited to, data mining and user profiling," which they say violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. 

3. Verizon 

Didn’t Verizon learn anything from AT&T’s attempts at super-cookies? Apparently not. 

The telecommunications behemoth was caught violating customers’ privacy after it employed super-cookies, a trick that allows a company to monitor what websites its users visit and what webpages they stay on. These type of identifiers track online behavior of consumers and they can’t be deleted from mobile devices. 

In other words, this astronomical amount of data is quite lucrative for both a firm like Verizon and marketing firms. However, with privacy concerns more prevalent than in previous years, it can also get the company into trouble, especially when Washington intervenes, though its own National Security Agency (NSA) is just as guilty for warrantless wiretapping of Americans and foreigners. 

Last week, four Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation wrote to Verizon Communications’ CEO, Lowell McAdam, asking for further clarification. Now they are calling for a public inquiry into the matter. 

4. Apple 

Nearly half of Apple’s iOS third-party applications violate the company’s own set of privacy guidelines. Despite being urged to cease utilizing unique device IDs (UDID) as a means of identifying customers, a 2013 study discovered that app developers are still incorporating these measures. 

This prompted the Consumer Law Group (CLG), a Canadian-based organization, to launch a national class action lawsuit against Apple and app developers on behalf of individuals who downloaded apps onto their Apple devices. Some of the app owners include The Weather Channel, Dictionary.com and Sunstorm Interactive. 

Of course, there are other allegations that Apple has aided the NSA in handing over data. 

How do you feel about these big corporations violating your privacy? Let us know in the comments box below.

 

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