As if the “surveillance as a feature” aspect of many (read: most) of the gadgets that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) wasn’t bad enough, Samsung has taken creepy to a whole new level. A website launched by the company in January promises to erase from your memory all of your favorite television shows so you can “re-experience [them] with the same thrilling feeling you had the first time you watched [them].”
The website UnspoilMe.com is part of Samsung’s marketing strategy for their newest lines of SmartTVs. The Unspoil Me tool is currently available only on the company’s Swedish website, but thanks to Internet translation and worldwide access, can be used from almost anywhere. The website says Unspoil Me was created to enhance viewers’ experience:
With the Samsung QLED TV we want to offer you an amazing binge-watching experience; with a wide variety of content and remarkable picture quality.
There's really only one thing that could ruin your experience — that you already know how everything ends. That's why we created Unspoil Me; a tool that gives you the opportunity to forget your favorite TV series, so you can re-experience it with the same thrilling feeling you had the first time you watched it.
[Translated on the Internet and edited for style, here and throughout this article.]
The memory wiping process is accomplished via hypnosis. Unspoil Me uses a 23-minute video and audio program developed by certified hypnotists Ulf Sandström and Fredrik Praesto. The site states:
You decide what TV series you'd like to forget.Then you'll be guided through self hypnosis in a digital audio experience, [led] by a certified hypnotist.
The experience lasts about 23 minutes and has to be experienced without interruption. Therefore, we recommend you to use headphones and make sure you're in a place where you will not be disturbed.
Once you've completed the hypnosis it's recommended that you get one night's sleep before you watch your favorite TV series for the first time again in order for your brain to integrate the hypnosis with the rest of your body.
The part about not being interrupted or disturbed is important enough that Samsung really wants to drive it home. In the section, “Will the hypnosis work on me?” the site states:
Hypnosis does not work for everyone, you'll have to try and see!
In order for the hypnosis to work, you need to experience it without any interruption and with full focus. Therefore, we recommend you to use headphones and Make sure you're in a place where you will not be disturbed.
While many will likely be drawn to this tool by its promise of being able to re-experience favorite programs, it is worth noting that Samsung is not a company this writer would ever trust enough to have them tinkering around inside my head.
First, while the site claims that “hypnosis is a natural state of mind and is done on your terms,” it also issues the warning that “people suffering from mental illness or epilepsy should not go through the hypnosis.” At this point, the site steers visitors to the “terms and conditions” page. That page states in its consent policy that “the experience (self hypnosis) could have real effects and I am prepared to forget the whole, or parts of my favorite TV series” and warns users not to use the tool for anything other than “its intended purpose.”
Those terms and conditions are:
1. "Unspoil me" has been created by Samsung Electronics Nordic AB ("Samsung") and allows you to take part in an audio experience with a 23 minute long self-hypnosis ("the experience") produced by Fredrik Praesto, a certified hypnotist.
2. Take part of the experience at samsung.com/se/unspoilme/eng.
3. Before starting the experience I guarantee that I'm over 18 years old, fully mentally healthy and not suffering from any neurological problems or epilepsy. If not, I guarantee that I will contact a doctor before I take part of the experience. If I suffer from abnormally low blood pressure, I will also consult with a doctor before taking part of the experience.
4. I am aware that the experience (self hypnosis) could have real effects and I am prepared to forget the whole, or parts of my favorite TV series.
5. I guarantee my sole purpose of using Unspoil Me, and I would just like to think of a movie clip or a TV series that I want the opportunity to forget.
6. In order to take part of the experience, Samsung does not need any personal information.
That last point is almost funny. “Samsung does not need any personal information” before reaching into a person’s mental hard drive and pressing the delete button. Perhaps one reason Samsung “does not need any personal information” is that — since this is largely part of a campaign to promote their newest lines of SmartTVs — they already likely have more “personal information” on users than those users realize.
And that brings me to my second reason people should think hard before allowing Samsung to sweep out their attics. Samsung has been shown to be a company that does not deserve to be trusted on anything approaching this level (though, for that matter, this writer can’t think of anyone he would trust that much).
As The New American has reported previously, Samsung’s SmartTVs are a prime example of “surveillance as a feature.” As this writer has addressed both here and here, with their integrated cameras, microphones, and Internet connectivity, SmartTVs are designed to spy on their users. The chain of privacy/security is only as strong as its weakest link, and there are a lot of links in the SmartTV chain. With voice recognition, on-board cameras, and microphones, Internet connectivity, and "Smart Interactivity," one is left to wonder why anyone would want one of these devices in their homes. It's one thing to watch television; it's another thing altogether for your television to watch you.
When George Orwell wrote of wall screens that were always watching and reporting, he could not have realized that in the early 21st century, people would willingly — gladly — pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to put these devices in their own homes to spy on them. The early 21st century makes Orwell’s 1984 look innocent.
And now the leading producer of SmartTVs designed to spy on people wants to hypnotize users to get them to watch more TV. After all, what could go wrong? Keep this in mind: After the process, users will gladly spend more time in front of the All-seeing Eye, enjoying an “amazing binge-watching experience” while they themselves are watched.
And don’t forget that the CIA has developed (and lost) tools for hacking in and watching and listening — so it may not just be the folks over at Samsung that have access to whatever rooms you have a SmartTV in.
Of course, the people who will gladly undergo the “wipe-my-brain” process are those who already say things like, “Let them watch; I don’t have anything to hide.” Some technology should simply never exist; but just because it exists, that does not mean that people should trust and use it.
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