Is your smart TV spying on you?

Feb. 8, 2017

Is your TV spying on you? According to Robert Briel at Broadband TV News, “U.S. smart TV producer Vizio has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General for spying on 11 million consumer TVs.”

The agencies’ complaint alleged that starting in February 2014, Vizio and an affiliate began manufacturing TVs that captured second-by-second information about consumer’s viewing behavior without obtaining viewers’ informed consent.

Jerry Huang, Vizio general counsel, said, “Vizio is pleased to reach this resolution with the FTC and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Going forward, this resolution sets a new standard for best industry privacy practices for the collection and analysis of data collected from today’s Internet-connected televisions and other home devices. The [viewing data collection] program never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the commission did not allege or contend otherwise. Instead, as the complaint notes, the practices challenged by the government related only to the use of viewing data in the ‘aggregate’ to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.

“Today, the FTC has made clear that all smart TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information and Vizio now is leading the way.”

The company said it had updated its online and onscreen disclosures before the announcement of the resolution.

According to Briel, “This is not the first time that there is concern about data collection by smart TVs. In March 2016 the European Audiovisual Observatory published an IRIS Special legal report called Is my smart TV working for Big Brother? Consumer organizations in Belgium and the Netherlands have also expressed their concerns.”

Nathan Olivarez-Giles at The Wall Street Journal advises, “If you have a connected TV from any brand, this is a timely reminder to check the terms of service or privacy policy, either in the TV’s own menu or on the TV brand’s website. If your TV menu has privacy settings, open them, too.”

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