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Do Samsung smart TVs stop YOUR videos to play ads?

Barry Collins
11 Feb 2015
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Samsung smart TV owners left furious after videos are interrupted with Pepsi ads

It's not been a good week for Samsung's smart TVs. Fresh from a controversy over whether they're listening to your private conversations (short story: they're not), now owners are claiming that Samsung is interrupting playback of their own videos to show viewers adverts. 

The accusation comes via a post on Reddit, where an owner of a Samsung smart TV claims that he was streaming a movie via the television's Plex app when it was stopped to make way for a Pepsi advert. Plex is an app that allows you to stream content stored on PCs/NAS drives to other devices on the home network, which means the advert cannot have been inserted by a streaming video provider. 

That leaves only two likely culprits: Plex or Samsung. Plex has no history of inserting ads into user content, but Samsung does have a deal with Yahoo to display adverts via its smart TVs. Last year, the company told Business Insider: "Samsung has been working with consumers and with strategic partners since 2011 to explore and develop more interactive smartTV features that will allow consumers the choice to experience a new generation of home entertainment. These new interactive experiences are offered on an 'opt-in; basis via the Samsung SmartHub."

It's not been confirmed whether these "interactive experiences" are responsible for the Pepsi ads, but that's certainly the running theory on Reddit, where Samsung customers are up in arms. "If this is true, that Samsung are implementing ads into hardware to be displayed over/during whatever I'm doing with my device, I will never buy a Samsung product again," writes one commenter.

A Samsung spokesperson said they believed the adverts were being shown in error. "We are aware of a situation that has caused some Smart TV users in Australia to experience program interruption in the form of an advertisement. This seems to be caused by an error, and we are currently conducting a full and thorough investigation into the cause as our top priority. This situation has so far been reported only in Australia. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience experienced by our customers."

Privacy furore

In the meantime, Samsung has issued a statement over allegations that its TVs were eavesdropping on private conversations via their voice recognition facility. The furore was kickstarted by a revision of Samsung's privacy policy, which stated 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".

Samsung has now revised the privacy policy once more, insisting that the televisions aren't constantly relaying living room conversations to the company's partners. "Samsung will collect your interactive voice commands only when you make a specific search request to the Smart TV by clicking the activation button either on the remote control or on your screen and speaking into the microphone on the remote control," the new terms read.

 

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