Samsung has revealed its TVs can be remotely disabled if the company finds out the units have been stolen. The feature is called the “Television Block Function” and Samsung says it was recently activated in South Africa after a number of Samsung TVs were taken from a company warehouse during a wave of protests and unrest last month.
Samsung says the technology is “already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products” and “ensures that the television sets can only be used by the rightful owners with a valid proof of purchase.” For the TV Block Function to work, Samsung needs to know serial code of the stolen unit. When the set connects to the internet, it checks its serial code against a list on Samsung’s servers, and disables all TV functionality if it finds a match.
Blocking the TVs stolen in South Africa was presumably relatively easy. They’d been taken from Samsung’s own warehouse, where the company would be tracking its inventory. Although it may sound like this feature might be used to help individual consumers whose TVs have been stolen, Samsung says it’s only for use in large-scale thefts.
The company told The Verge: “The sole purpose of Samsung TV Block is to mitigate cargo theft and unauthorised retail. This is to ensure that the TV products are used by owners with a valid proof of purchase. Samsung TV Block is only activated when there is a specific, confirmed report of a stolen or unlawfully obtained device. Consumers can rest assured that this function does not activate on TVs with a valid proof of purchase. Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously, and our TVs are designed with privacy in mind.”
The company does say, though, that in the event that customers in South Africa have one of their TVs blocked by accident, they can have the block lifted by sending a proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update Tuesday August 31st, 10:12AM ET: Updated with statement from Samsung.