Samsung Smart TVs Now Inserting Adverts Into Streamed Videos

Samsung has just given us another graphic lesson in how internet-connected smart devices aren't actually better than the dumb gadgets they replaced.

Numerous Reddit users are reporting that Samsung smart TVs are spontaneously inserting Pepsi ads in the middle of streamed videos. This first popped up on the Plex subreddit, and has been confirmed on Plex's own support forums and on the support forums of Australia cable provider Foxtel.

Samsung Smart TVs Now Inserting Adverts Into Streamed Videos Advertising e-Reading Hardware

All of the complaints from Plex users are echoing the same general tale: the user is watching a video from their personal library, when it is spontaneously interrupted by a 30 second ad spot featuring Pepsi.

I watch most of my TV shows on a Samsung Smart TV and it has been fantastic for the past year. Recently it has been stopping half way through a show or a movie and has played a pepsi ad that is muted.

It does not do this on any other platform (PC, PS4, tablet) has anyone else experienced this?

The Foxtel subscribers report that the ad is interrupting live TV:

... after about 15 minutes of watching live TV, the screen goes blank, and then a 16:9 sized Pepsi advert (taking up about half the screen) pops up and stops Foxtel playing. It's as if there is a popup ad on the TV. I have not installed any other software or apps - I just factory reset and loaded up Foxtel. So again, WTF?!!

Foxtel customer service has pinned the blame firmly on Samsung, and reports the advert "appears to be a Samsung related issue and has been escalated to them with the highest priority".

Given that several victims have reported that their smart TV was updated recently, Samsung has probably finally enabled the "ad stuffing" tech which first showed up on some Samsung smart TVs around this time last year. The ad seen last year hyped Yahoo, not Pepsi, but the situations are similar enough that they must be related.

Cnet reports this was a technical glitchon the part of samsung and that a Foxtel spokesperson said that "this was an unintentional action by Samsung that we're working closely with them to resolve ASAP."

That may be true, but it doesn't abate the privacy and other concerns related to Samsung's products.

This story is breaking only days after Samsung was taken to task for admitting in its privacy policy that the microphone in its smart TVs captured all sounds, including personal info, and passed the information to other companies. "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," the policy reads.

That policy has been compared on Twitter to 1984, and with good reason:

For the past few years I've been reading any number of pundits that smart devices would one day fill our houses and change our lives. Given all of the problems presented, both by Samsung and with devices from other makers like LG, I've come to doubt whether the label of "smart device" is really all that accurate.

The Samsung smart TVs, as well as the LG devices which were spying on users, are slaves to the programming of the manufacturers.

That seems like a pretty dumb machine to me. In fact, I'd argue that the label smart device is wrong; these are less smart devices than they are limited function computers.

Cory Doctorow explained a few years ago why that was a problem:

We're not making a computer that runs only the “appliance" app; we're taking a computer that can run every program, then using a combination of rootkits, spyware, and code-signing to prevent the user from knowing which processes are running, from installing her own software, and from terminating processes that she doesn't want. In other words, an appliance is not a stripped-down computer—it is a fully functional computer with spyware on it out of the box.

We don't know how to build a general-purpose computer that is capable of running any program except for some program that we don't like, is prohibited by law, or which loses us money. The closest approximation that we have to this is a computer with spyware: a computer on which remote parties set policies without the computer user's knowledge, or over the objection of the computer's owner. Digital rights management always converges on malware.

At the time that was a far-fetched speculation, but in light of the recent Samsung news it has proven to be an accurate prediction.

And that, folks, is why I plan to keep my TV and other appliances as dumb as possible. If I want a smart device, I'll use my laptop - something I can control.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

6 Comments

  1. puzzled11 February, 2015

    Remind me again, is Samsung based in North or South Korea?

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder11 February, 2015

      As far as Samsung is concerned, is there a difference?

      Reply
  2. KLG12 February, 2015

    So is it going to be like Amazon Fire tablets. Pay one price to get the TV and make another payment later to kill the Samsung commercials? Maybe Amazon should start selling their own Fire TV.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder12 February, 2015

      Except that in the case of Amazon, you know there are ads going in. Samsung sprung the adverts on unsuspecting owners.

      Reply
      1. KLG12 February, 2015

        True, true and you don’t even get a ‘discount’ on purchasing the TV with built in advertising.

        Reply
  3. […] Boing Boing published a post yesterday which reminds us exactly why dumb gadgets are the best gadgets, and not just because the device's maker can use smart devices against you. […]

    Reply

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