The TV Block function, present in all Samsung televisions, allows the company to block them, although it claims that it only uses it in case of theft.
The case of stolen televisions in South Africa has served to expose a functionality that most buyers of Samsung televisions do not know they have. The country suffered last July episodes of violence and looting in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng; A Samsung warehouse was the target of some thieves, who snatched up a large loot of smart TVs. As a result, new TV sales in South Africa have plummeted in recent weeks, due to the number of new units available on the second-hand market, according to TV With Thinus .
This week, Samsung’s South African division announced that all those stolen televisions are now useless ; the company decided to activate the TV Block function to deactivate the devices remotely and without the need to find the culprits. However, this announcement raised many questions about the power that the company has over its devices, even when they have left its warehouses.
TV Block is pre-installed on all Samsung TVs sold worldwide. It is able to detect if the television has been “improperly activated” , in other words, that the person who has activated it is not its owner; it also ensures that the TV can only be used with a “valid proof of purchase”.
This detection is done when the TV connects to the Internet for the first time; In addition to checking for system and application updates, the TV checks if its serial number is on an external Samsung server, in which case it crashes and all its functions are disabled.
Samsung claims that, in the case of the thefts in South Africa, it only activated TV Block on televisions that were obtained from its warehouse , and not those that were in stores and in the hands of distributors. In this way, it seeks to justify the blockade and clarify that the blocked units were not for sale and therefore, there is no risk of affecting real customers. However, at the same time the company has accepted the possibility that some customers are incorrectly blocked , in which case it has only provided an email through which they must share a valid proof of purchase.
In addition, this incident reminds us that when we connect our television to the Internet, the manufacturer knows this and can make modifications that we may not like too much.