Your government is spying on you! Businesses are spying on you! Your phone and browser are constantly spying on you! Even your TV is spying on you!
Yes, you should also worry about your “smart” TV, as one of the world’s biggest smart TV makers Vizio has been caught secretly collecting its consumers’ data through over 11 Million smart TVs and then selling them to third-parties without the user’s explicit consent.
But the good news is that the home entertainment hardware maker has been fined heavily for this practice.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Monday that Vizio had spied on almost every customer from its Vizio smart TVs through its Smart Interactivity feature, and rather than fighting back the accusation any longer, the company has agreed to pay a $2.2 Million fine to settle the lawsuit.
“To settle the case, Vizio has agreed to stop unauthorized tracking, to prominently disclose its TV viewing collection practices, and to get consumers’ express consent before collecting and sharing viewing information,” the FTC says.
“In addition, the company must delete most of the data it collected and put a privacy program in place that evaluates Vizio’s practices and its partners.”
According to FTC, the smart TV maker installed data tracking software to collect viewing habits of 11 million of its smart TVs without informing its customers or seeking their consent.
Besides this, the company also collected each household’s IP address, nearby access points, and zip code, and shared that information with other third-party companies, who used it for targeting advertising towards Vizio TV owners.
The data tracking software reportedly worked by collecting a selection of on-screen pixels every second your TV was on, and then compared that data to a database of known movies, television shows, and commercial commercials, and another type of video content. This practice is known as automatic content recognition (ACR).
According to the FTC, Vizio also recorded the date, time, channel of TV shows, and whether you watched the program live or recorded and took all that information and connected it to your IP address.
With this data in hand, anyone can know you and your television watching habits, and according to the complaint filed by the US Federal Trade Commission, “Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others.”
However, Vizio has agreed to stop unauthorized tracking, prominently disclose its TV viewing collection practices, and get consumers’ express consent before collecting or sharing their information with other companies.
How to Stop Your Smart TV From Spying on You
To check if your smart TV is also spying on you, open Vizio TV’s settings menu or directly open HDTV Settings app and check if options under “Automated content recognition (ACR)” are ON. If Yes, follow below-mentioned steps to turn it off:
- Open Setting Menu and Select System
- Select Reset & Admin
- Select Smart Interactivity.
- Press arrow to change setting to off
Besides this, Vizio must also delete most of the data the company gathered and put a privacy program in place that evaluates its practices and partners.