Samsung has announced that it will remotely brick any TVs stolen from its warehouses following a looting incident in South Africa. Stolen TVs were fitted with remote blocking technology that instantly bricks the televisions connected to the internet. Samsung can do this with any television, regardless of where they are in the world.
The technology is called TV block, and it now comes preloaded on all Samsung products. When a TV is reported as stolen, Samsung logs the serial number and waits for that TV to connect to the internet. As soon as Samsung clocks it logging into the server, a signal is set to remotely shut the TV down, including all of its functions. While it sounds justifiable, there’s several reasons why this is actually kind of bad.
There’s one glaring reason why this is not a great idea, and that’s the fact that most individuals who steal a TV are probably going to go on to sell it. Whether it’s through Facebook, eBay or elsewhere, it’s unlikely they are going to hold on to it unless absolutely necessary. This creates a pretty major problem. The unsuspecting buyer is going to fork out for a TV they are unaware is stolen.
What’s even worse is that once the seller has sold the TV, it’s likely they’ll disappear. The end buyer is left with a TV that breaks as soon as they try to hook it up to the internet. The only person getting punished in this scenario is the buyer, who believes they are getting a secondhand TV. Not only will they be out of pocket, but they’ll end up with a big, useless TV that takes up space.
It’s a solution that really benefits no one. Yes, Samsung can rest happy knowing its stolen TVs won’t be used, but that doesn’t affect those who have stolen them. At that point, they’ve already made their money, and are theoretically out of reach of the law. So bricking TVs in this nature actually harms Samsung, as innocent end users are going to assume their TV is at fault.
One of the other major issues is that Samsung wastes a number of materials with each TV it bricks. In a world where we are constantly evaluating and measuring our effect on the planet, completely bricking TV units in this way is just wasteful. There are probably far more environmentally friendly ways to limit theft than completely destroying the unit instead.
TVs are notoriously difficult to recycle because of the toxic materials that go into creating them. Some parts if a unit can be reused, such as the plastic that holds everything together. However, this requires people to take them to the relevant recycling centre. In reality, a bricked TV that doesn’t work is probably going to end up at a landfill.
Electronic waste is already a global issue that continues to escalate alongside our reliance on devices. This makes Samsung’s scant disregard for the end result of bricking units all the more frustrating. It’s essentially a “it was stolen, so it isn’t our problem anymore”, and that isn’t good enough.
A major oversight
Having this kind of power over consumer TV sets is also worrying because there’s one major oversight, hackers. We’ve already seen numerous companies fall victim to hacks and attacks, so it’s a question that’s worth asking. In the wrong hands, access to this technology could cause major disruptions.
What’s worse is that Samsung could use this technology in other ways. It might start with stolen TV sets, but not to could extend to other reasons in the future. Corporations having this level of power over its products is ultimately a negative for everyone and not just thieves.
It’s worth nothing that Samsung has said it will return services to any customer than can provide proof of purchase and a valid TV license.