Did you know that your television set might have spied on you? It’s not just your cable or satellite company that knows a lot about your TV viewing habits.
Many modern television sets connect to the internet just like a computer. In fact, they contain computers that function somewhat like your smartphone or tablet.
These “Smart TVs” let you use apps to watch programming on the internet through services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. That’s where the potential problem lies.
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Vizio’s TV Snooping
Vizio recently got into trouble and paid a $2.2 million settlement for using its TVs to spy on customers. According to the FTC, Vizio starting making TVs in 2014 that tracked what people were watching and sent the data back to its own servers.
Vizio also installed the tracking software remotely on older models. The FTC and Attorney General’s office of New Jersey allege that Vizio didn’t clearly tell consumers or get their consent.
What Information Did Vizio Collect?
The company gathered information on what viewers watched – everything they watched, from all sources, including cable, satellite, streaming devices, over-the-air broadcasts and DVD players.
By matching the network address of a home’s internet connection (called an IP address), experts could match the viewing data to a particular household. Vizio sold mountains of viewing data with IP addresses to advertisers.
Vizio’s contracts didn’t allow them to identify individuals by name, but did permit a bunch of other personal details such as age, sex, income, marital status, family size, education and home ownership status.
How to Disable TV Spying
Although Vizio got caught, who knows what other TV companies are gathering similar information? Fortunately, Consumer Reports has written a complete guide to disabling tracking software that could be hiding in your television set.
How About You?
Do you have a Vizio television set? What do you think of the idea that your TV may have spied on your and provided personal information to advertisers? How much does this bother you?