Now Samsung SmartTVs are interrupting users' videos by inserting random ads

Samsung smart tvSamsungWill a random Pepsi ad pop up when he clicks to watch that movie?

First came the reports that Samsung’s SmartTVs were listening into everything you say in your living room. Now Samsung is dealing with a new headache: Gigaom reports that Samsung SmartTVs are interrupting users’ own video content by inserting ads without their permission.

Over the past few days, a number of Samsung SmartTV owners have been reporting the issue on Reddit and user forums. One of the reasons the ads appearing is so surprising is that many Samsung SmartTV owners were using apps and services that allow them to stream locally-stored content from their computer or a storage drive to their TV, Gigaom says. That could be potentially be anything from a movie download to the family vacation video — which they definitely wouldn’t have agreed to selling ads against.

Reddit user Beans90, who was using the Plex app to watch movies, wrote in the /r/Plex subreddit: “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 thread has numerous responses complaining of the same issue: A Pepsi ad taking up about half of the screen, with no audio, randomly popping up when they watch movies using Plex on a SamsungSmartTV. Sometimes the pop-up even stops streaming from working altogether.

Another Reddit user, Marlinblade, said: “Getting beyond a joke now. Happens all the time. I stream to anything else and it’s no problem but the tv gets this ad every 10 mins or so.”

The issue also appears to extend beyond the Plex app. Gigaom found numerous threads on Australia’s Foxtel technical support forums (like this one) with Samsung SmartTV owners complaining that Pepsi ads — again, without audio — have begun popping up as they watch live TV and movies.

A Plex spokesperson told Gigaom the company has nothing to do with the Pepsi ad in question, while a Foxtel employee responded on one of the technical support threads that “this absolutely should not be happening and is being escalated immediately.”

Samsung has actually been inserting ads into its SmartTVs for some time. Business Insider reported in January 2014 that Samsung had struck a deal with Yahoo to insert pop-ups into SmartTV ads. But Samsung had reassured Business Insider at the time that the pop-ups would be offering on an “opt-in” basis only. That clearly isn’t the case in the Foxtel and Plex cases.

Users can disable the ads by pressing “Menu” on their Samsung Remote, scrolling to Smart Hub, then to Terms & Policy, and then to Yahoo Privacy Policy. From there, users need to scroll down and toggle an option that says “I disagree with the Yahoo Privacy Notice” to opt out.

Business Insider has contacted Samsung for comment and will update this post once it has been received.

Samsung’s Australian unit has responded to CNet, although its statement does not clarify the reasons behind the issue users in other regions are facing:

“Samsung Electronics Australia is aware of an issue that has caused some Samsung Smart TV users to experience program interruption in the form of a Pepsi advertisement.

“This was a result of an error that occurred as part of a recent software update that was not intended for the Australian market.

“We can confirm that the issue has now been rectified and that there are currently no plans to introduce this type of advertising in Australia in the near future. Samsung Electronics Australia would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused to our customers.”

The pop-up ad problem is not only annoying for users but raises further privacy concerns over Samsung’s SmartTV in the same week The Daily Beast first reported that the device’s privacy policy warns that its voice-recognition technology means it can potentially listen into everything you say, and that the information will be among the data captured and passed over to third parties. Samsung later responded, clarifying that the device is only listening in when you press the microphone button on your remote control.

This newest case, as Gigaom’s Janko Roettgers points out, brings up the issue that consumers are unaware about the type of deals that take place between Samsung and advertisers, and indeed, how to opt out of their data being collected by those advertisers.

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