Will Privacy Concerns Affect Smart TV Sales?

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Samsung’s new line of Smart TVs will be voice-enabled, allowing users to give vocal instructions instead of using remotes.

It sounds like a good idea, but critics like the BBC have highlighted privacy concerns surrounding the fact that Samsung’s TVs will still pick up audio from the TV even though the microphone isn’t enabled. Their user agreement in fact states that the data can be sent to “third party” services:

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.

All modern marketers collect some form of data in order to tailor advertisements and sell products, but is there a point that they reach in collecting consumer data that alienates customers out of privacy concerns?

Where do marketers draw the line?

The big question moving forward for marketers is: how can we collect data in a way that is useful, ethical, and does not negatively impact a consumer’s impression of our brand?

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As we wrote last week, modern marketing is kind of like a relationship between the consumer and the brand. And like any relationship, trust is a crucial element that we need to preserve in order to retain any of our customers. The world moves far too quickly for customers to forgive, rather than simply forget, a brand that has stepped on their toes.

That said, when this information is used right, it enriches the consumer’s experience and heightens their opinion of your brand. What we need to do is find that middle ground between marketing personalization and respecting our consumers’ right to privacy – however that’s defined.

Consumers worry about their privacy.

An eMarketer study reported that Americans across all ages are 60% more concerned about their online privacy than they were a decade ago. This is a soft statistic, but one of its direct effects is the migration of young people away from Facebook and towards more anonymous forms of social media such as Whisper, Yik Yak, and Secret.

The same study reported that over 75% of users would stop using a product, app, or service is they felt as if their privacy or personal info was compromised.

These privacy concerns aren’t new.

This isn’t the first time a Smart TV has sent unencrypted data over Wi-Fi. Manufacturers like LG and Samsung will argue that the information gathered is low-key background stuff, like a user’s favorite programs, online behavior, and search keywords.

Hackers have been able remotely access webcams for years, and the American Civil Liberties Union predicts that there are possibly tens of thousands of cases of law enforcement officials to accessing GPS and location data from cell phones, even without a warrant.

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Internet savvy users know that these things happen, but have done little to curtail usage of this technology and haven’t expressed real concern about the ramifications of any of this stuff. After all, people still use Google, maintain Facebook accounts, and host their private files on Apple’s cloud despite potential security concerns.

We’re not the first ones to make the connection between a television that can eavesdrop on your conversations and the Big Brother telescreens of 1984. But even if the data collected is never even seen, let alone used for nefarious purposes, it’s never a good look to be compared to the totalitarian surveillance system of one of the all-time popular dystopian novels.

Will privacy concerns affect sales of smart technology?

Smart TVs are like the canary in the coal mine for the approaching Internet of Things. It’ll be interesting to see how privacy concerns might shape the popularity of certain technologies, and how society at large adjusts itself to work around the total absence of privacy. It could go two ways: the “always-on” mentality either creates a culture of fear, or one of sharing and cooperation – “social media” in the best sense of the term.

The old argument is, “You should be fine, as long as you’ve got nothing to hide.” And it’s not like most of us really do. But within the context of buying and watching a television, isn’t that something you do in the privacy of your own home to unwind from the day and just be alone for a while?

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I'm a Dallas-based copywriter, blogger, and content marketer paying close attention to the human side of Big Data.

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