In what has caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding privacy issues in the United States, has to do with capturing the viewing habits of TV owners of Vizio brand smart Televisions. This story was reported by technology editor David Lee (BBC).
At issue was the fact that the smart TV technology was able to capture the viewing habits of the TV owners which is not unheard of. Think of Google and SEO technology for searches. However, the viewing data was then apparently transmitted to Vizio’s servers and sold to third parties without consent.
The company claimed that the data was general and not specific to the personally distinguishable contact information of the TV owners. This means that they did not connect the viewing habits with the name or personal contact owner of the viewers. Instead, it was alleged that the viewing habits were amassed in such a way as to make summary reports of the viewing habit of audiences or behaviors. This data was then sold to third party advertisers.
The complaint by the FTC stated the following points:
- Started in 2014 and gathered data from around 11 million televisions
- Collected real-time the viewer’s information
- The viewers IP address
- Nearby access points
- Zip codes and various personal information
- They shared this information with other companies
- The consent of the viewers was not authorized
The lawsuit settlement was for a mere $2.2 million USD to settle this alluded to claim. A mere slap on the hand! The settlement now prevents Visio from collecting this information without a more clear consent from the owners of their manufactured televisions. It stops them from unauthorized tracking of this data without consent.
In addition, Vizio has been ordered to delete all the data it had previously aggregated. The concerns here are privacy issues that have to do with privacy laws in the United States. Identity theft is a major concern as well as other issues of privacy centering on private property rights.
If you own a Smart TV maybe you should assume it can collect your viewing habits along with other pertinent information. Vizio is not a lone offender here. Even Samsung’s models in 2015 were discovered as capturing this data without the viewers direct and consented to knowledge.
To be clear, the tracking is not new or not known. Think of Netflix or even Youtube that will help you with your viewing habits to give you similar videos, movies or content that aligns with your viewing tastes.
Some of these TV, such as Vizio takes all the information in real time, including the IP address, possibly your spoken words with a built-in microphone, and then shares this data with advertisers. This all accomplished without the viewer’s consent. This is like residual income for the TV manufacturer at the TV owner’s unsanctioned expense.
Unless you want to go back to the stone age of TV viewing, the best defense would be to simply turn off the Smart TV interactivity on your TV menu. Each manufacturer should have one. At this time, not sure if any of the viewers who were victimized received any of the $2.2 Million, but they should have. If they did not, then the FTC apparently gained from this breach of privacy.