In the age of Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa (all virtual assistants) we are becoming more accustomed to having electronics constantly listening for our next verbal command. We know there is a trade off between privacy and convenience.
What about your television, though? You may (or may not be) aware that some newer televisions have the ability to not only track watch you watch, but also listen to what is being said in the room.
The tracking of your viewing habits provides valuable information to advertisers and other third parties. This collection of data is not restricted to the Smart TV however; streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV also collect information on what you are watching.
TV maker Vizio was hit in February with a $2.2 million fine by the FTC for collecting this information without disclosing that fact to consumers. Here is a sample of LG’s Privacy disclosure from their website:
“…viewing Information may include the name of the channel or program watched, requests to view content, details of actions taken while viewing (e.g., play, stop, pause, etc.), the duration that content was watched, and input method (RF, Component, HDMI)…. such as the menu items you click on, the apps you access (but not your activity within apps), what channels are available to you, and information regarding external devices connected to the Smart TV…. Voice Information. This refers to voice commands and associated data (such as information about the input device that records your voice) used to recognize and act upon the command, OS information, TV model information, content provider, channel information and service results.”
How can you tell if your TV is sending this data out? Is there a way to opt out? Yes.
The following article from CNET lists all major brands of televisions and streaming devices with step by step instructions for each on how to limit or disable tracking.