In George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” the time protagonist Winston Smith spends inside of his home mostly is taken up either hiding from the all-seeing screen that hangs upon his wall or taking direct orders from it.
Orwell writes, “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide…”
While it may not be a tool of a totalitarian regime (yet), a new breed of televisions is raising concerns of an Orwellian future among privacy advocates. According to the Daily Mail, new products from Samsung, including plasma and HDTVs, are closer than ever to personal computers meant to sit in your living room and include built-in HD cameras, microphones and face- and speech-recognition software.
Critics say the new television technology opens homes of unsuspecting people up to hackers and possibly companies seeking information for marketing purposes, and there is no way to disable the cameras and microphones to ensure privacy.
Gary Merson, who runs a website called HD guru, said: “What concerns us is the integration of both an active camera and microphone. A Samsung representative tells us you can deactivate the voice feature; however this is done via software, not a hard switch like the one you use to turn a room light on or off. And unlike other TVs, which have cameras and microphones as add-on accessories connected by a single, easily removable USB cable, you can’t just unplug these sensors.”