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Reports that new Samsung TVs can capture personal information with their voice recognition feature has sparked concern about what critics perceive as digital spying by so-called smart devices.

Nor is Samsung the only smart TV manufacturer collecting this type of data. In Samsung’s case, at least, users have the option to disable the collection. That’s not always the case.

In November 2013, the owner of a smart TV made by LG Electronics discovered that the device was collecting information about his viewing habits, even when the “collection of watching info” feature was turned off. Worse, the TV also sent back to LG’s servers the names of files stored on external media devices and even network shares.

After his report was picked up by the media, the company issued a firmware update to stop the data transfer if the collection feature was turned off. However, a few months later, it issued a new update that asked customers to accept a revamped privacy policy that gave the company the right to collect viewing, voice and device usage information and to transfer it overseas, to countries with potentially fewer privacy protections.

“You do not have to agree to the Privacy Policy but if you do not, not all Smart TV Services will be available to you,” the company’s policy says. This effectively forces users to decide between sharing their usage data with LG and having their smart TVs dumbed down.

You have options!
These increasingly aggressive data collection practices by TV manufacturers, which hope to make some advertising revenue on the side—the LG policy says the data can be used for personalized advertising—raise the question of whether smart TVs are really worth the privacy sacrifice, especially when alternatives are available.