U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is calling on major television manufacturers to come up with a uniform standard of security to be used in all new internet and video-enabled televisions that would prevent hackers from spying on consumers.
The new so-called “smart TV’s” feature embedded cameras and microphones like the ones found in new laptop and netbook computers. The sets are sold in stores as “internet ready,” and the devices they contain are capable of being remotely activated. Therefore, as Schumer says, your TV may be watching YOU!
Schumer wants manufacturers to establish a uniform security standard that would be followed industry-wide. The average consumer is unaware that computer-networked appliances can be hacked. Security researchers found one brand to be particularly vulnerable: they were able to hijack the set's web browser in certain models of Samsung Smart TVs and use it to turn on the built-in-camera.
Greg McNeal is a law professor at Pepperdine University in California. He warns civil liberties may be violated if police or government officials use your TV to pry into your private life. McNeal uses old-school technology to thwart electronic peeping toms: he puts a piece of tape over the camera on his laptop when he's not on Skype.
Schumer argues the burden shouldn't be on the consumer to use tape or a sticker like McNeal does, nor should set owners follow one manufacturer’s suggestion that to combat hackers, the TV should be unplugged when not in use.
If you’re really paranoid, or just want to wait until the technology is secure, there are plenty of old cathode-ray sets to be found for sale online and at local garage sales.