Samsung TV Block Feature Prompts Debate

John Lister's picture

Samsung is to remotely disable televisions stolen from its warehouses. It appears to be the first time it's activated the security measure.

"TV Block" hasn't attracted much attention before but Samsung says it is installed on all its televisions. It hasn't confirmed if this is only in South Africa, where the feature has now been triggered, or on all sets worldwide.

The activation follows looting during unrest in South Africa last month. A Samsung warehouse was among the locations ransacked.

Internet Connection Used For Block

The TV Block feature works because Samsung's Smart TV sets have an Internet connection to operate video streaming apps. Whenever such a set connects to the Internet, TV Block checks the serial number against a database of stolen sets.

If the serial numbers match, the feature blocks all functionality on the television. This doesn't simply meaning blocking smart features such as apps, but rather stops the television operating at all.

Home Burglaries Not Covered

Samsung says that in the event of a customer's set being blocked after a misidentification, the customer should contact the retailer from which they bought it. They'll need to provide a proof of purchase and a valid TV license (which is a legal requirement to watch television in South Africa). The retailer will then contact Samsung for validation, with a reply promised within 48 hours.

According to Samsung, the idea of the feature is to deter both the original looting and people buying the stolen sets. However, at the moment the company is only activating it for sets stolen from the warehouse. It isn't triggering the block on sets stolen from retailers in looting, or indeed on sets burgled from people's houses. (Source:

Response to the announcement appears to be mixed. While some support the deterrent measures, others are concerned that the TV Block exists in the first place. One fear is that Samsung could change its policies and find other reasons to disable functionality. Another is that hackers could find a security loophole and then disable televisions themselves, either to create mischief or as part of an extortion scam. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you support this use of technology? Should Samsung use it on all sets known to be stolen, not just those looted from its warehouse? Is there too much potential for error or abuse?

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Unrecognised's picture

I wouldn't buy anything from Samsung, for this and for other related reasons.

Note that they wouldn't help me with their TVblock 'feature' (ha ha) if the thing was robbed from my house.

I buy a thing: I want complete control over its operation- and that goes for ggl and mcrosft as well. I resent their incursions.

Resist, or be swallowed! OK our heads are down their gullets already, but maybe we can still salvage some quantum of agency.

buzzallnight's picture

So, the bad guys will brick all
Samsung's Smart TV sets
and then they will have to give out the fix....