All the privacy concerns that apply to your smartphone and your computer also apply to your smart TV. This is especially true if your smart TV comes with a camera and a voice recognition feature.
The Washington Post ran a piece on the different ways TVs can spy on you and the various ways that companies like Vizio, LG and Samsung have landed themselves in trouble. Some highlights:
– Vizio paid out a $2.2 million settlement after the government dinged it for its “automatic content recognition” features. Vizio was collecting data on what users were watching without giving them a clear enough opportunity to understand this practice and opt out of it.
– Samsung came under fire after it was revealed that conversations within earshot of the TV could be transmitted to third-parties.
– LG was criticized for sending private data to its servers even when TVs were turned off, including channel information, broadcast source data, TV platform information and even data from connected USB sticks.
The typical manufacturer response to such privacy concerns is not to remove these data collecting “features,” but to give users a more prominent opportunity to opt out.
If you do buy a TV with internet connectivity, take the time to read through what you’re opting in to. The names of the services and how they describe them often change and aren’t always clear. For example, Vizio’s data collection service is called “Smart Interactivity.” Samsung has a program called “SyncPlus” which basically exists to serve you ads.
If you’ve had your TV for a couple of years, it’s also a good idea to delve into your settings and see what’s enabled. If your TV was purchased before the manufacturer took corrective actions, you may have these data collecting services enabled by default.